Women's Vital Contributions
Five years after the US invasion, Afghanistan's level of security was, unfortunately, backsliding. A renewed Taliban insurgency and emboldened conservative forces threatened a still fragile peace and, most especially, the status of women. Women leaders were subject to verbal and physical harassment and increasingly marginalized in the political process, a situation that endangered hard won gains. Women's empowerment to participate in the country's political, economic, and social reconstruction was and remains critical to successful stabilization and democratization.
In September 2007 Karuna Center for Peacebuilding and the Initiative for Inclusive Security jointly led a six-day multi-sector training seminar in Kabul, titled Securing Afghanistan: Women's Vital Contributions. The training culminated in a policy forum held at the Afghan Ministry of Foreign Affairs and brought together more than 60 Afghan leaders and 17 international policy makers.
One of the most dynamic participants, Wazhma Frogh, was featured in a Christian Science Monitor article entitled Inside Islam, A Woman's Roar (see right column).
Karuna Center's partner, the Initiative for Inclusive Security, had worked in Afghanistan since 2005, providing training for women in government ministries and parliament. In our joint seminar women and men from civil society organizations, parliament, and the ministries worked together on strategies for building multi-sector coalitions that promote women's participation in addressing obstacles to a sustainable peace. Outspoken Afghan women were fighting lonely battles as they struggle to be heard. To be effective they needed broader platforms and to develop mutual support. Conflict analysis and mapping exercises equipped participants with tools to deepen their understanding of the root causes of a range of current conflicts and to develop more effective strategies for intervention.
Other sessions focused on practical skills of conflict resolution and on means for bridging ethnic, religious, and regional divides to construct a national civic identity. Capacity-building sessions in advocacy and message management then prepared the participants to present strategic recommendations on security issues to relevant NATO, EU, and US policy makers during roundtable discussions held on the final day.
The seminar offered Afghan participants a broadened understanding of security, one that goes beyond issues of immediate safety. Ultimately, true security depends upon the full inclusion of all citizens, regardless of gender, ethnicity, religion, or class and also requires strategies that address the causes of conflicts at their deepest roots.
FIELD REPORTS and ARTICLES
Securing Afghanistan, Women's Vital Contribution
Inside Islam, a Woman's Roar
Interview with Orzala Ashraf:
Listen to interview by Olivia Dreier with Orzala Ashraf, who ran underground schools for girls during the era of the Taliban and then created a safe haven for women who suffered severe domestic abuse.