Joint APPG Event to mark International Women’s Day and in Support of Afghan Women and Girls:
“Help us hold on to hope”:
Addressing the Impacts of the Taliban Take-over on Women’s Rights in Afghanistan
9 March, 3pm, Rm N/Online
Organisers*: All-Party Parliamentary Human Rights Group (PHRG); Afghanistan APPG, Women, Peace & Security APPG
Chair: Dame Diana Johnson MP – PHRG Chair, with opening remarks also by Baroness Hodgson, Co-Chair, Women, Peace & Security APPG; and Mark Logan MP, Chair, Afghanistan APPG
- Samira Hamidi– South Asia Regional campaigner, Amnesty International, and former country director for the advocacy group Afghan Women’s Network
- Y– International Rescue Committee
- Forozan Rasooli– Women’s Rights Activist; former Deputy Director, Equality for Peace and Democracy
- Asuntha Charles – World Vision
- Horia Mosadiq – Afghan human rights activist, political analyst and journalist, also Executive Director of NGO “Safety and Risk Mitigation Organisation”
- Seema Ghani – former Chair and currently Strategic Advisor, Hand in Hand Afghanistan, and founder of People’s Movement Against Corruption in Afghanistan
Main points raised:
- The situation for Afghan women and girls (A W&G) before the Taliban takeover was challenging, but since, is much worse. That day was the saddest: Afghan women lost their identity. They are now being silenced, and are shocked and traumatised.
- Women’s rights activists being arbitrarily detained, tortured and even disappeared.
- Women have been eliminated from Government offices, Ministries and leadership roles. The Ministry for Women’s Affairs was abolished.
- 76% of the 24.4 million Afghans in need are women and children, with widespread hunger and a risk of acute malnutrition. At least 7.4 million A W&G require GBV services. The continuing deterioration in the economic situation will result in increased domestic violence and child marriage.
- To access services, even life-saving healthcare, women require accompaniment by a male family member, very challenging, especially for female headed households.
- Even before the Taliban takeover, healthcare facilities inaccessible to a significant minority, and difficult to access for many. The exodus of doctors has led to healthcare services, including reproductive healthcare, nearing collapse. The deterioration in the health of women will affect the next generation.
- Women continue to work, including in humanitarian field, but increased insecurity, with intimidation and harassment. Organisations delivering lifesaving services must engage with the Taliban to negotiate access to vulnerable populations without compromising on human rights and the full participation of female humanitarians.
- Many governments appear to be quietly recognising the Taliban, emboldening them and resulting in increasing restrictions.
- Many continue to hide for their own protection; questionable how long they can do this. The Taliban have begun home searches.
- Taliban are unchanged, though more fragmented; vice and virtue policies reintroduced.
- The current situation exacting big emotional toll, with increase in suicides.
- Economic empowerment of A W&G vital, gives them a voice and more mobility.
Recommendations for the UK and wider international community:
- International engagement with the Taliban must be conditional, with respect for rights of A W & G non-negotiable and clear benchmarks applied. This must be informed also by those navigating daily realities of engagement with the authorities to ensure vulnerable populations can access lifesaving services.
- Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, Pakistan, other neighbouring states and Saudi Arabia should be urged to call for women’s rights in their interaction with Taliban.
- On-going human rights monitoring is required.
- Afghan women, including those in exile, have considerable expertise, which must be valued and harnessed. They need to be at the centre of discussions.
- Women’s programmes, human rights initiatives, scholarships and services should still be prioritised, and their CSOs empowered, for those in-country and in exile.
- Humanitarian and development support must benefit and involve A W & G. Women headed-households to be given special consideration. Funding should be flexible.
- As well as addressing urgent humanitarian needs, longer-term sustainable development must be supported – including at the upcoming UN Humanitarian Pledging Conference on Afghanistan at end March, co-sponsored by the UK.
- HRDs at risk must be given safe passage out, and neighbouring states encouraged to open up, with UNHCR funded to set up offices; currently only Iran accessible.
The APPGs will raise the above with relevant interlocutors, including UK Ministers and officials, to urge more interaction with, support for, and protection of Afghan women, and engagement with the Taliban based on strict conditionality.
*This event was not organised by GAPS.