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Supporting Afghan Women and Girls is more urgent and vital than ever

October 8, 2021

In the wake of the Forum on providing protection to Afghans at risk which took place Thursday 7 October 2021, we commend the EU Member States for the strong support that they showed on the evacuation and resettlement of Afghan refugees.

Twenty years ago, the international community committed to supporting Afghan women and protecting their rights while supporting Afghanistan. When these commitments were first made, the international community was on the ground in Afghanistan and could provide direct assistance and support to women. We must realize that this support has also made Afghan women a direct target of Taliban and other reactionary local and regional forces, as they celebrate their victory by reversing the progress made by Afghan women during the past twenty years.

With the fall of Afghanistan, and the scope of direct assistance on the ground becoming limited, the EU must meet its moral duty towards Afghan women and reaffirm and evolve its unwavering support to meet the changing needs of women and girls in Afghanistan.

We commend the statements made by President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johansson and other European leaders in support of evacuating and resettling Afghan women and children and in highlighting their special situation and the need to provide them humanitarian support.

We urge EU and other world leaders to take concrete action to support Afghan women, including those who choose to stay in Afghanistan, those who are unable to leave, and women refugees from Afghanistan in the EU and elsewhere. Without such concrete assistance, the credibility of commitments made twenty years ago will be cracked.

We applaud the actions that Member States and the EU have already taken toward the evacuation and resettlement of Afghans in need of refuge, as well as the humanitarian assistance provided. However, to fully provide support to Afghan women, their specific needs should be at the core of all humanitarian actions. We encourage Member States and the EU to partner with women’s organisations to provide gender-sensitive support to Afghan women in Europe, Afghanistan and elsewhere. This is fully in line with the joint commitment made by all of us in Europe, putting women in Afghanistan at the frontline of our support.

Afghanistan today when women bounce back, a statement from our Director Sabra Bano

September 28, 2021

20 years of hard work in Afghanistan to acknowledge, accept and support women`s rights have been a rewarding exercise for all those involved, says director Sabra Bano

With the fall of Kabul, emerging testimonies of resilience and bravery of women from Afghanistan are a genuine tribute to the international women`s movement. The global wave of gender equality moves forward even in the face of ideological barricades, as the recent protests led by women in Afghanistan have witnessed. We salute the heroism of women in Afghanistan, she stated.

The resilience, persistence and struggle of Afghan women leaders has been and is defiant. It is inspirational, heartwarming and moving. While some boarded a flight to refuge abroad, many have stayed back on the home ground demanding their inclusion in governance and administration, and continuing the work as equal citizens.

What is happening in Afghanistan today is not exceptional to the women in the world. The women`s movement for gender equality is but continuously full of such challenges and brutalities under militarization and ideological tyranny.

20 years of partnership between Afghan and international women and women`s rights organisations has been a just and a fruitful exercise. As during the past years, Afghan women`s rights were fully addressed at national and international forums, and today women in Afghanistan have proven that they lead and determine their destiny all alone.

The world looks at them with pride and inspiration. When all lips are sealed, they broke the silence. When others are hiding in their homes, they take to the streets hand in hand, letting the world know that the Taliban are not the whole Afghanistan but just one actor within the Afghan society. Thus, the rest should remind them of their existence. Women in the world are known to have shown their courage and leadership in the worst situations of peace, security, disaster, pandemic, and chaos.

Afghan women are no exception to this vital role that women in the world have always played and will continue to play.

Women across the world are in solidarity with women in Afghanistan believing that they have the wisdom, courage, and strategy to deal with this change and setup of power. Let us show our support to all women and girls in Afghanistan and to their countless admirers and supporters around the globe.

Afghan Country Coordinator and family at risk have arrived in the Netherlands after surviving Taliban´s bullet

August 24, 2021

We are pleased to announce that today our Country Coordinator, Nazir Tofan, has arrived in the Netherlands together with his wife and daughter. Mr. Tofan and his family were at great risk in Afghanistan, which became even more apparent when last Friday Mr. Tofan´s wife, Sahar Obaidee, was shot in her arm by the Taliban after leaving their house to get bread.

Gender Concerns International is grateful to the Dutch Ministry, the Crisis Management Team and all staff on the ground for their brilliant support and for providing Women’s Human Rights defenders with safe passage from Afghanistan.

Country Coordinator and family at risk provided with safe passage after surviving wound from Taliban´s bullet

August 23, 2021

We are pleased to announce that today our Country Coordinator, Nazir Tofan, was brought out of Afghanistan together with his wife and daughter. We welcome this news, after it was reported to us that on Friday, August 20th, the wife of Mr. Tofan was shot in her arm by the Taliban.

Gender Concerns International is grateful to the Dutch Ministry, the Crisis Management Team and all staff on the ground for their brilliant support and for providing Women’s Human Rights defenders with safe passage.

The Evacuation of Human Rights Defenders Should Be Given Priority

August 20, 2021

The brutality of the Taliban is continuously on the rise in Afghanistan, much more beyond the coverage of the local and international media.

Just today, we received a phone call from our staff in Kabul, reporting the shooting of a woman in full hijab, who was only trying to get groceries in the neighborhood. We condemn the attack on the wife of Mr. Tofan, our Country Coordinator in Afghanistan.

We hereby, in solidarity, express our full support to the people, especially women in Afghanistan, and hope for a swift return to peace and security in the country.

Afghanistan: Doha Peace Talks, Women Are Hopeful

March 2, 2021

The Taliban have indicated that they will allow women to be educated, work and participate in politics. However, a large question persists: will women be promoted to positions of power in institutions such as the judiciary or the executive?

After decades of unrest, last year the Taliban and Afghan government finally decided to come together and have peace talks. Though this is a welcome change appreciated by many world-over, there is still a gap that exists. The biggest concern regarding the peace talks in Afghanistan is the exclusion of women from the negotiations. These peace talks are crucial as they can either go a long way in advancing the women's rights movement in Afghanistan, or set back the progress made so far by years. Hence, it is incredibly important that the International Community continues to support women in Afghanistan.

Not all hope is lost. Gender Concerns International has been a witness to Afghan Peace Talks and has been supporting women and observing their participation.

In mid-September, the Afghanistan Mechanism for Inclusive Peace (AMIP) reaffirmed the direct impact of inclusion of women representatives in the ongoing negotiations between the government and the Taliban. Gender Concerns International honoured and congratulated Afghan women and women's organisation's on the achievement and considered this a forward-looking development towards a gender-inclusive final agreement.

A peace negotiator in Doha, Fawzia Koofi, said on Sunday that they remain hopeful that the disputed points on procedural rules of the talks are removed within the next few days to resume the meetings between delegates from both sides of the negotiations.

The peace negotiations were inaugurated in September 2020 with the hope of ending the four decades of war in the country. Negotiating teams representing the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and the Taliban held more than 10 meetings in a small set up, called contact groups, to discuss procedural rules for the talks. The two sides have agreed on almost all articles of the ground rules for negotiations except two: religious basis for the talks and the connection of the US-Taliban deal with the talks in Doha.

Sources familiar with the process said the host of the talks, Qatar, and other countries supporting the Afghan peace process have expedited their efforts to remove the hurdles in the way of the direct negotiations between both sides.

“The draft is exchanged between the two sides. Some words are added. Some words are changed. We hope to solve this issue within the next few days,” Koofi said.

Sources said that Qatar’s special envoy for Afghanistan, Mutlaq al Qahtani, has held talks with negotiating teams of both sides in the last few days and has exchanged their views with both teams. Meanwhile, a Qatari lawmaker Hind al-Muftah al-Tamim said the peace negotiations are going in the right direction. But according to critics, the Taliban so far has not shown flexibility in their stance about the US-Taliban deal as a basis for the negotiations.

Afghan Women with Disabilities Suffer Most Under Covid-19 Conditions

June 4, 2020

Women and girls with disabilities in Afghanistan are considered to be among the most hardly affected communities around the world by the corona virus pandemic. Afghanistan has an extremely high number of people with disabilities as a result of conflict, leaving the government with few resources to provide effective government services to all of its communities. Approximately 80 percent of girls with disabilities in Afghanistanface serious obstacles to accessing education facilities due to the social stigma, lack of ramps and transportation, limited knowledge of teachers to apply inclusive education. Instead, women and girls with disabilities tend to be kept isolated from the rest of the society, and treated as a source of shame for their families.

The problems that women with disabilities face daily are amplified as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, particularly for those who live in rural areas. As medical clinics are commonly located in cities, rural inhabitants are forced to travel long distances in the absence of transportation to reach health services and even there treatment is not guaranteed.

Thus, even though the Afghan government expressed that they would protect the most vulnerable groups from the virus, disabled women seem to be forgotten.

Gender Concerns International therefore urges the International Community to offer more protection for women and girls with disabilities in Afghanistan, as well as support inclusive education and social programs aimed at alleviating the social stigma attached to any kind of disability.

#AfghanWomenDontGoBack: The Afghan Peace Deal Excludes Women and Disregards their Rights

March 3, 2020

Gender Concerns International together with women’s organizations and civil society organizations all over Afghanistan have expressed their discontent with the Peace Agreement signed by the United States and the Taliban forces on the 29th of February 2020, and are calling for "an Afghan-owned, Afghan-led and Afghan-maintained" peace process. The agreement has been criticized for neglecting to uphold the human rights of its citizens and to respect the constitutional values of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan which guarantees the equality of women. This is particularly important because women and other minorities continue to be marginalized and excluded from the negotiating table, despite considerable efforts to be politically represented and have their voices heard in male-dominated meetings and agreements. Completely disregarding the successful efforts made by Afghan women to achieve their freedom undermines the sustainability of the peace agreement itself, as half of the country’s population is female.

The Afghan Women’s Network has held a press conference sharing its concerns with this deal and suggesting solutions to reach a more inclusive peace process, using the hashtag #AfghanWomenDontGoBack. These suggestions include reducing violence against women, preserving all constitutional rights, demanding for elected representatives to take the lead in both intra-Afghan and external negotiations, and addressing these rights in an explicit manner. International organizations should put more pressure on the U.S. government to negotiate with the elected government of Afghanistan and safeguard human and civil rights.

Afghanistan Presidential Elections: Biometric System Impacted Low Rate of Afghan Women Voters

October 10, 2019

On the 28th of September, presidential elections took place in Afghanistan demonstrating failure in responding to the need of women voters.

Even though the women’s electoral participation since long has been a challenge for Afghan Election Management Bodies, the newly implemented anti-fraud measures have further impacted the scope of female votes, as justly was feared by women rights and other civil society organizations in Afghanistan.

The controversial anti-fraud measure requires a compulsory voter`s photo-take at a polling station. This issue has posed challenges to political parties and candidates in persuading women voters and their families to vote as most women in Afghanistan, observe strict purdah by covering themselves in public places. To be photographed by female polling staff would have not been a problem if there would be an appropriate presence of female polling staff. Prior to the election, the Election Commission stated that at least 1,450 of the nearly 30,000 polling stations employ no women. This had ignited the fury of eighteen women’s rights groups demanding

The Independent Election Commission (IEC) to withdraw this condition. Potential rural women voters found this is Un-Islamic and in contrast with customary practices to be photographed by men.

However, the general voter turnout was only around 20 percent, in a sharp contrast to the 60 percent of the previous presidential elections in 2014. Threats by the Taliban to attack polling stations were taken seriously by voters and Election Administration as more than 2000 Polling Stations remained unopened on Election Day.

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