On Wednesday 23rd November, the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Women, Peace and Security (APPG-WPS) hosted an event in collaboration with the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Afghanistan and the British and Irish Agencies Afghanistan Group (BAAG) titled “The situation facing women and girls in Afghanistan a year on from the Taliban takeover”. The event was chaired by Baroness Hodgson, co-chair of the APPG -WPS, focusing on the current realities for women and girls in Afghanistan, and discussing what the international community can do to support women’s rights organisations (WROs) and civil society organisations (CSOs) on the ground in Afghanistan.
The event heard from:
- Nargis Nehan, Former Cabinet Minister and Founder of EQUALITY for Peace and Development
- Harriet Knox Brown, Deputy CEO and Head of Programmes and Research, Peace Direct
- Maryam Rahmani, Advisor/Advocate: Afghanistan, Womankind Worldwide
- Horia Mosadiq, Afghan human rights activist and researcher
Nargis Nehan began the event by discussing how the international community can better include Afghan women in their advocacy. Following consultations with 30 local peacebuilders (26 of whom were women) in 20 provinces across Afghanistan, Nargis found that women in protest for their rights have adopted two approaches. One approach is protesting, demonstrating and exposing the Taliban’s violations through social media, and the other is attempting to resume their civic activities, providing services to their communities, and pressuring Taliban through community elders and religious leaders. Women and girls are building alliances and movements to put pressure on the Taliban to allow them to participate in social and public life. There is widespread frustration with the political and financial response of the international community towards Afghanistan. Nargis outlined that women, peace and security-funded programming has essentially ceased to exist, and terminating women/gender-related projects was not expected. Afghan women are calling for the international community to listen to them, provide them with flexible support, and include them in advocacy in international forums so they can discuss their experiences as well as be part of the conversation on the future of Afghanistan. Nargis discussed the importance of Parliamentarians holding the government to account on Afghanistan, and ensuring that they put pressure on the international community to withhold recognition of the Taliban until they respect and uphold women’s rights and form a legitimate and inclusive government.
Harriet Knox Brown followed and discussed the work that Peace Direct is doing to provide local organisations focussed on women’s rights and peacebuilding with funding in Afghanistan. Harriet expanded on the partnership that Peace Direct has with the Afghan organisation Equality for Peace and Development, discussing how Peace Direct is looking to support civil society organisations who remain in Afghanistan with small but flexible grants. Initially, the focus of the grants was core funding to ensure that these organisations survived the crisis, but has now moved into more long-term support emphasising the role of civil society groups in promoting women’s rights, peacebuilding and social cohesion. Mapping conducted identified 25 WROs and CSOs that existed under the radar of traditional funding mechanisms, and Peace Direct worked with EPD initially through the Hawala system and then in partnership with AmanaCard to move money safely and directly to these organisations, and provide women with multi-purpose cash assistance. Harriet stated that the international community must provide more access to flexible, core funding to help local organisations continue to operate in Afghanistan, and find innovative ways to overcome any legal or practical obstacles that may arise.
Maryam Rahmani spoke in detail about what the daily lives of women and girls in Afghanistan look like; they are excluded from political and social life, with no access to work or income. Women and girls are denied access to essential services and are doing their best to remain visible despite recent arrests and detention of activists. Maryam spoke of the need for more transparency around funding. While money has been pledged and sent to Afghanistan through UN entities, it is hard to see where this money has gone, which is particularly concerning since there are no conditions for the Taliban. Maryam discussed the need for Afghan women to be included in delegations and criticised that evacuation is now the only option for women and girls.
Finally, Horia Mosadiq expanded on Maryam’s presentation about the situation for women and girls in Afghanistan. Horia discussed how Afghanistan has become the only country in the world where women and girls are not allowed access to education. Women’s poverty level has increased as the economic opportunities of households, in general, have disappeared. Women’s freedom of expression, associated and movement are all restricted, and Horia spoke to the fact that while this is a degradation of women’s and girls’ rights, it is also impacting their mental and emotional well-being. Boys and men are also heavily impacted by the current situation, with enforced disappearances, torture, displacement and extra-judicial killings, Horia argued that it is important that we look at Afghanistan through a gender lens. Horia recommended that the international community put conditions on engagements with the Taliban, drawing red lines and discussing leverage that can be used to negotiate with them. Horia also spoke to the need that a certain percentage of aid is targeted towards women.
The event ended with questions from the audience about the conditionality and distribution of aid, and what can be done by the UK Government for women and girls in Afghanistan. The speakers discussed the need for the international community to withhold visiting the de factor Government in Afghanistan, particularly doing publicity, as they are not upholding any promises in the Doha Agreement. Similarly, speakers discussed the need to reduce due diligence on funding to ensure that local WROs and CSOs can continue to function effectively. The speakers outlined their asks to the Foreign Office and the Home Office, including on funding, conditionalities around engaging with the Taliban and accountability.
Flick Drummond MP, co-chair of the APPG-WPS provided closing remarks, and Baroness Hodgson concluded the event and thanked the speakers.