Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Monday, June 17th, 2019

Challenges for Women in Peace building in Afghanistan

With the unanimous adoption of Resolution 1325 by the UNSC in October 2000, women’s role in, and potentials for peace building have gained global, regional and national attention. Consequently, the past decade characterized by the identification of key issues, especially in Afghanistan, on women, peace and security, and the development of interventions to address them. The identification of issues and design of interventions on women, peace and security have been tailored around four main areas, namely early warning and conflict prevention; peacekeeping and peace support operations; peace processes such as mediation, peace talks, and signing of peace agreement/s; and post-conflict peace building. In addition, there have also been some cross-cutting concerns. This includes the increasing requirement for the development and/or domestication of policy frameworks that provide the legal and constitutional backing for women’s active and visible involvement in peace and security; and the actual mobilization of women for engagement in a field that has long been a male preserve; and such involvement, of course  faces vast challenges in a traditional society like Afghanistan.
The resolution of issues in each of these areas, the participation of women in policy and decision- making, and their access to power and other resources is critical to unleashing the potential of women to act as effective pillars and stakeholders in the process of building peace. This is also fundamental for the achievement of equality, development and peace as posited for in the Beijing Declaration of 1995.
Globally and in Afghanistan, violent conflict has raised women’s awareness of the necessity to take initiative, and there is now a growing recognition of the significant roles that women can and do play in resolving conflicts and building peace. In Afghanistan, the role of women in peace building has gained prominence over the Past years as women’s groups organize themselves to participate in peace building initiatives and processes. Their peace initiatives and efforts have ranged from the provision of survival necessities such as food, medical care, etc., to peacemaking by building bridges of reconciliation across the conflict divide; initiating intra- and inter-clan or community dialogue; intervening in national peace processes; advocating for women’s human rights and access to decision-making and leadership; provision of psychosocial support to victims of rape and other violations; and assistance in the reintegration of ex-combatants.
As the lessons from Afghanistan Peace Process have shown, sustainable peace can only be achieved with the full participation of all sectors of the society, of which the contribution of women is central. Women bring an alternative, gendered view to peace building that leads to transformation at both structural and practical levels.
However, despite the considerable gains that have been made, women continue to be under-represented in peace and security processes, particularly at the formal and technical levels where women’s roles tend to be largely invisible. Women’s associations, groups, organizations and networks that are working for peace continue to face numerous challenges that diminish the impact of their work. Challenges to women’s peace activism arise at different levels – from the international community, the national political milieu, and the patriarchal nature of society. Other impediments are generated by women’s lack of confidence, skills and resources. At another level, while there has been an upsurge in the number of policy instruments on women peace and security at both national and sub national levels following years of intense lobbying and advocacy by women’s groups, there is still the challenge of translating policy into real and efficient tools to support women’s peace work.
Afghanistan has been a hotbed of violent conflict and war, for about 4 decades. Most of this armed conflict has been waged between rebel/militia groups and state government and the external supporters of the government, have taken unconventional forms, defying traditional ‘fighting’ zones by taking war right into homes and having a high human cost. The nature of the conflict and the fact that they originate from the bush, close to rural/grassroots communities, exposes and draws local populations into the violence conundrum, completely disregarding the provisions of both international humanitarian and human rights laws. Furthermore, Afghan conflict has had cross-border implications, with a spill-over effect that has exerted severe strains on neighboring countries. In addition, the conflicts have been fueled by the neighboring, regional and international actors during the 4 past decades.
The intricate, multi-faceted and multi-party character of the conflict which transcends borders has demanded a broad strategy of intervention that includes the active involvement of non-state actors and wider cooperation of diverse stakeholders across the regional level. As a result, there have to be collaborative efforts at both governmental and nongovernmental levels to intervene and respond to conflict in Afghanistan. The success of this collaboration broadly depends on the active and meaningful involvement of Afghan and regional Women organizations in the peace process of Afghanistan at the national and regional level.