Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Saturday, November 17th, 2018

The Role of Women in Peace Process in Afghanistan

In a typical Afghan setting, peace is equated with ‘freshness’, health, wellbeing, harmony, calm and tranquility. The absence of such qualities is seen as the sign of conflicts, which could be either latent or overt. It is that harmony and freshness which provided farmers with good crops, the politicians peace of mind and the people welfare. When there was enough food for everyone, peace would reign in homes and families, clans and tribes. As nobody had any reason to be envious of others, neighboring communities could live in peace, visit one another during the off seasons and attend weddings and funerals.
However, armed conflict and the presence of weapons legitimize new levels of brutality and even greater levels of impunity. Often this escalating violence becomes a new ‘norm’, which continues into the post-conflict period, where chaos adds to the many frustrations that were not solved by war. Violence has been used as a tool to compel and keep women in their place. Women are exposed to more brutal forms of violence in these wars and are often ridiculed. This is seen in the various roles women are capable of doing during peace time, in conflict and after conflict.
Afghan Women as Mothers
Despite having important roles and responsibilities in their cultures, women have struggled to participate in the formal peace process, which has been dominated by men. In situations of armed conflict, women play both an active and a passive role in the restoration of peace in Afghanistan.
In the Afghan tradition, women have been wives and mothers, and few worked outside the home. Women taught their daughters and sons, proper behavior and the ethos of society, As such, women have always been active promoters of harmony in the community, which can be referred to as a “culture of peace”.  
Afghan Women as educators
Women also acted the role of “peace builders’; they taught boys and girls the rules of the game. These observations and trends clearly demonstrate that an essential contribution of women in traditional Afghan society is their role as school for the young. Therefore, through their important mothering role, the culture of peace is entrenched in children as a foundation for peaceful living in families, the community and the clan.
Afghan Women as Mediators
Given the extent and significance of women’s peace activism it is surprising how uniformly women have been excluded from formal peace processes.  In traditional Afghanistan, women played both an active and a passive role in the restoration of peace. For example within the framework of passive peacemaking by women in Afghanistan, a girl could also be offered to the family of the victim as a form of reparation. 
Today, though women have not been fully engaged in the peace making initiatives in the society, due to cultural stereo types, and political favoritism and hegemony, in some aspects of conflicts, women have played vital and selfless roles.
Afghan Women as Peace Activists
It is not easy to translate women’s activism into a presence at the peace table. Certainly, not all Afghan women groups want to be at the table if it involves negotiating with the warlords or tyrants who helped create the conflict, but most peace activists feel that women’s presence is essential.  Afghan women are rarely included in formal negotiations, whether as members of political parties, civil society or special interest groups.  Many women’s rights groups argue that, women establish their credibility as peacemakers at the grass roots level but are marginalized from official negotiations. Making it from the grass mat to the peace table has nothing to do with their qualifications as peacemakers. Once the foreign mediators come and the official negotiations start, you have to be able to sit at the table, and speak their language. Often women are not trained or given the chance.”  Women’s concerns come not merely out of their own experiences, but out of their rootedness in their communities.
It is high time that Afghan society starts to treat women as change agents in the peace process and not merely as victims who are vulnerable. Afghan Women are not merely passive victims, but also are important agents and actors in the peace building processes in the country. As agents or actors, women have played significant roles in terms of being mothers, educators, mediators, peace activists and community leaders, coping and surviving actors, breadwinners and decision makers. As peace activists and community leaders, Afghan women have played a variety of roles and have been engaged in various activities, yet their role and participation tends to be ‘invisible’ in the context of the formal peace building processes. Most peace building activities conducted and initiated by women peace activists and community leaders have been carried out outside of the official and formal peace building processes. It is against this backdrop that I believe that there should be a change in attitudes and behaviour and individuals should learn that women are effective and they should be incorporated fully and equally into participation at every level of decision making in positions having to do with peace issues.