Nine out of ten women in Afghanistan are worried about the Taliban returning to government believing it would risk the gains made for women in the past ten years, according to an ActionAid survey.
A thousand women were polled across Afghanistan to obtain a rare insight into their opinions about living through the last 10 years of war and the current reconciliation process with the Taliban. Friday 7 October marks the 10th anniversary of US and British forces’ intervention in Afghanistan.
Sixty-six per cent of women said they feel safer now than they did 10 years ago and 72 per cent believe their lives are better now than they were 10 years ago.
Nearly four in ten think Afghanistan will become a worse place if international troops leave. Of those who fear a return of the Taliban, one in five cited their daughter’s education as the main concern.
ActionAid’s Director of Policy, Belinda Calaguas, said: “In 2001 our leaders went into war in Afghanistan saying that improving women’s rights was a goal of intervention. Ten years on as the international community begins withdrawing troops and enters into peace talks with the Taliban and other insurgent groups, women are being frozen out of the process and are worried that their rights are being traded away for peace.”
ActionAid’s new report A just peace? The legacy of war for the women of Afghanistan calls on the international community to ensure that women’s rights are a non-negotiable part of any political settlement in Afghanistan.
“All parties involved must make public statements that the equal rights for men and women that are enshrined in the Afghan constitution – including women’s right to education, to work, and to participate in public life – are sacred and will never be overturned,” said Ms Calaguas.
In addition Afghan women must be actively involved in the peace, reconciliation and transition processes.
Women in Afghanistan who have stood up for women’s rights in the past ten years, including teachers, female politicians and activists are now afraid for their own safety if the Taliban return to power, with some saying they will be forced to leave the country.
Fawzia Koofi, an Afghan MP who has said she will stand in the 2014 presidential election said:
“World leaders must not abandon the women of Afghanistan at this crucial time.
“I urge the international community to make sure that women’s rights in Afghanistan remain at the top of the agenda and are not sacrificed for peace.”