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UN-backed symposium focused on women rights in Afghanistan

AT-KABUL: Government officials at an UN-backed symposium in Takhar’s capital city gathered with activists, professors and other community leaders to discuss recent efforts in the north-eastern province to improve protections for women’s rights.

Some 30 people attended the one-day event, organized by UNAMA’s Kunduz regional office, to consider practical ways to work together, at the district level, to empower Afghan women at all levels of society, from the social to the political, and enable them to enjoy their fundamental rights.

They discussed the effectiveness of formal mechanisms, including Afghan law and Islamic values, to prevent and address sexual harassment, and talked about the importance of women’s participation as voters, candidates and electoral officials in the upcoming polls.

“Although the efforts to eliminate violence against women are progressing, power brokers still are not fully embracing the existing laws or relevant religious values,” stated Razmara Hawash, the director of Takhar’s Department of Women’s Affairs, noting that until those in positions of power embrace real change, the fight for women’s rights will remain a challenge.

Khalida Rahimi, a university lecturer, echoed these thoughts, stressing that it is imperative to focus on the causes and consequences of violence. “Eliminating violence against women requires providing educational and employment opportunities for women and girls, and as well as enforcing legislation when women’s rights are violated,” she said.

As in many parts of Afghanistan, women in the north-eastern region are faced with many challenges, including poverty and illiteracy. While the Afghan government has taken steps to protect and improve the welfare of women through legislation, the situation remains unchanged for many women, especially in regions of the country where harmful traditional practices are still prevalent.

The Takhar symposium addressed several topics relating to women’s rights, including women’s fundamental right to participate in the upcoming elections. The event was covered by local media outlet Radio Raihan later broadcast to an estimated 150,000 people in and around the provincial capital.

The daylong event was facilitated by UNAMA’s Kunduz regional office as one of UNAMA’s many outreach activities set up to enable community leaders to come together and look into practical ways not only to advance the participation of women in Afghanistan’s social and political life, but also to increase their participation in business and trade. Similar programmes were organized in Kunduz, Baghlan and Badakhshan as well.

UNAMA supports the Afghan people and government to achieve peace and stability. In accordance with its mandate as a political mission, UNAMA backs conflict prevention and resolution, promoting inclusion and social cohesion, as well as strengthening regional cooperation. The Mission supports effective governance, promoting national ownership and accountable institutions that are built on respect for human rights.

UNAMA provides ‘good offices’ and other key services, including diplomatic steps that draw on the organization’s independence, impartiality and integrity to prevent disputes from arising, escalating or spreading. The Mission coordinates international support for Afghan development and humanitarian priorities.

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