“Your country is now embarking on a process to create credible and accountable institutions in which all Afghans are represented. These are decisions for Afghan men and women to make. The role of the United Nations is to assist and encourage this process. But, I would like to take this opportunity to say to all Afghans: there cannot be true peace and recovery in Afghanistan without a restoration of the rights of women.” UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan in his statement to the Afghan Women’s Summit for Democracy (Brussels, 4 to 5 December 2001)
Afghanistan has the second highest maternal mortality rate in the world. Even before the Taliban came to power, Afghanistan had high maternal and child mortality rates and a very low literacy rate for women. But women participated economically, socially and politically in the life of their societies. They even participated to draft the 1964 Constitution and in the 1970’s, there were around three women legislators in the Parliament. Until 1980’s, women worked as teachers, government workers and medical doctors, professors, lawyers, judges, journalists, writers and poets.
After when the Taliban came to power, women and girls were marginalized and their rights taken away resulting in economical and social conditions of women and girls as they were restricted to education, health care facilities and employment. Only 3% of girls received primary education but boys were also affected as majority of the teachers was women. Because they couldn’t go to a male doctor, malnutrition and poor health conditions made pregnancy and childbirth dangerous for women. Women were not allowed to travel outside the home if they were not accompanied by a male relative and they couldn’t drive cars as well. Today the reconstruction of the country continues and many NGO’s as well as UN entities are active in improving the female’s situation in Afghanistan.
Women’s role in the rehabilitation and reconstruction
After 2001, women have increased their activities and several events have been organized by Afghan women’s organizations both inside and outside Afghanistan such as seminars, international conferences to ensure that the voice of the women and girls would be heard and get attention.
87% of the Afghan women are illiterate, 30% of girls have access to education, 1 in every 3 afghan women do experience physical and psychological violence and 70% of women and girls are faced with forced marriages.
New opportunities written down
The adopted Afghan constitution states that “the citizens of Afghanistan – whether women and men – have equal rights and duties before the law”. Women have been allowed to come back and work and many have been appointed to prominent positions in the government.
Even if there has been done changes, much work still remains. Girls are still forced into marriage and denied education. Schools have been opened for girls and young women are studying in universities. They are seeking back to their job as teachers, doctors and radio and television broadcasts in Kabul features female commentators.
President, Hamid Karzai demonstrated his support for women’s right by signing “the Declaration of the essential rights of Afghan women”, in Dushanbe, Tajikistan in 2000.
I personally define human rights as universal rights outside a state. Human rights apply to every person at every time in all circumstances anywhere in the world. They are independent of gender, race, language, ethnic origin, age, social class, religion and political convictions. Powerful forces in a society can prevent the development and realization of human rights.
Norway is doing a great job promoting human and women’s rights and fight for gender equality in developing countries.
UN women’s commission (CSW, created in 1946) has 45 members and promotes the position of women in the UN member states. Norway is one of the countries that have been very active in the women’s question like strengthening women’s status and rights, rights to health, family planning, education and work.
Today there is a huge difference between women and men’s economic status even in the developing countries and even though majority among the 1.3 billion people living around the world is women.