Life for women and girls in Afghanistan has changed dramatically in the last decade.
Since the overthrow of Taleban rule in 2001, women have been able to access work, education and healthcare services denied to them for years. For instance, in 2001 fewer than 1 million children attended school, almost none of them girls. By 2009, 2.5 million girls alone were in education.
It’s not just girls who have benefited from this more open, equal society. In the 2010 election over a quarter of seats were won by female candidates, and 40% of people voting were women. It’s a long way from the level of discrimination endured between 1996 and 2001 under Taleban rule, where women were essentially confined to the house unless chaperoned by a mahram, a male blood relative.
However, there’s a real risk that the human rights of women and girls will be pushed back once again, as the Afghan government attempts to enter into negotiations with insurgent groups and the Taleban ahead of 2014, when coalition forces withdraw from the country entirely. Crucially, the Afghan government is currently leaving women’s groups out of these talks. As Mary Akrami, Director of the Afghan Women Skill’s Development Centre has said, ‘there cannot be national security without women’s security, there can be no peace when women’s lives are fraught with violence, when our children can’t go to schools’.
For the past year we’ve been lobbying the UK Government to make sure they champion women’s rights at defining conferences laying out the future of the country’s governance in Bonn and Chicago, and your campaigning led to an increase in women in the Afghan delegations. With every new conference, there’s a risk that the rights of women in Afghanistan could be rolled back, and next up is the Tokyo Conference in July. It’s focusing on the issue of foreign aid to Afghanistan, and Andrew Mitchell, the UK’s Secretary of State for International Development, is attending.
Andrew Mitchell will be answering your questions about the UK’s Aid budget on Facebook this Monday (25 June), so we think it’s the perfect time to ask him about his department’s commitment to women’s rights in Afghanistan – and how he intends to represent the issue at Tokyo next month. Mitchell has stated that women and girls will be at the heart of any UK aid. We need to make sure that he turns his rhetoric into reality.
Please put your questions to the Minister on his department’s Facebook page. You could ask:
- If he can confirm that the UK Government will champion the need for aid that meets the specific needs of women and girls in Afghanistan
- If he will meet with Afghan women’s organisations such as the Afghan Women’s Network to hear what their needs are
- If he’ll make a long-term, tangible commitment towards safeguarding women’s rights in Afghanistan
- If he’ll call for meaningful participation of Afghan women at the Tokyo conference on development aid to Afghanistan
- If he’ll call for measures that support the full implementation of the Law on the Elimination of Violence Against Women
We’ve made sure the UK Government keeps its promises on Afghanistan before – help us do it again.
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