Afghan women open wide-ranging talks ahead of International Women's Day

Afghan women open wide-ranging talks ahead of International Women's Day

Seeking to develop a common vision of women's role in peace-building and reconstruction in Afghanistan, female leaders from across the country today launched an effort to work out a series of recommendations to be presented during Friday's commemoration of International Women's Day in Kabul.

The three-day Afghan Women's Consultation brought together representatives from a variety of professional backgrounds and geographical regions, including rural and urban areas, according to a UN spokesman in Kabul. "They will discuss such diverse issues such as security, peace, economic, livelihood, employment, education, training and capacity-building," Manoel de Almeida e Silva told reporters in the Afghan capital. He added that political decision-making, health, culture and human rights would also be on the agenda.

The talks - organized by the Afghan Minister of Women's Affairs and the UN Fund for Women (UNIFEM), in cooperation other UN agencies - will run through Thursday. "This precedes March 8, which as you know is International Women's Day, and on that day the women who participated in this consultation will present their vision and agenda for action," the spokesman noted.

This will be the first time in the past 11 years that International Women's Day will be observed in Afghanistan. The global commemoration this year will be held under the theme "Afghan Women Today: Reality and Opportunity."

Hundreds of Afghan women from all over the country are expected to attend the Kabul ceremony, which will be addressed by the Minister for Women's Affairs, Dr. Sima Samar, the Chairman of the Interim Authority, Hamid Karzai, and the UN Secretary-General's Special Representative, Lakhdar Brahimi.

In Herat, the UN World Food Programme (WFP) is working with other aid agencies to celebrate the Day by organizing a poetry and picture competition for schoolgirls on what it means to be back in school.

At UN Headquarters in New York, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan and United States First Lady Laura Bush will be among those participating in a commemorative meeting aimed at "celebrating the indomitable spirit, heroism and endurance of Afghan women," while showing global solidarity with their cause, according to the event's organizers.