Women in Afghanistan move to reclaim their rights – new UN report
The report on discrimination against women and girls in Afghanistan, which will be considered by the UN Commission on the Status of Women when it meets next month, paints a dismal picture of the plight of Afghan women while pointing to hopeful signs born of recent developments.
Maternal mortality in Afghanistan is the second highest in the world, according to the report by Secretary-General Kofi Annan on “Discrimination against women and girls in Afghanistan”. During Taliban rule only about 3 per cent of all girls received some form of education, while Afghan women were barred from working and their freedom of movement was severely restricted. Women also suffered “massive abuses during the civil war and the Taliban regime,” the report says.
Following the fall of the Taliban, however, Afghan women increased their activities, participating in panel discussions, conferences and international meetings. There were also improvements on the education and employment front, with schools for girls reopening and women returning to their former jobs.
“Afghan women should be seen as primary stakeholders and agents of change who have identified their own needs and priorities in all sectors of society and are ready to be full partners in the rebuilding of their society,” the report states. It calls for the UN and the international community to “ensure that gender perspectives are mainstreamed in all its interventions while, at the same time, seeking to proceed in a sensitive way that gives Afghan women ownership of the process.”
The report also urges special attention to the human rights of Afghan women and girls. “Women’s effective participation in civil, cultural, economic, political and social life should be promoted and protected throughout the country, including the right to life; respect for the right of women to work; the right to education, to security of person, to freedom of movement and association, freedom of opinion and expression, to equal access to facilities necessary to protect their right to highest attainable physical and mental health,” the report states.