Women's Day on Friday 8 March was marked with celebrations mainly in Kabul, but overshadowed by uncertainty as to the country's future. With attention focused on the prospects for a peace deal, there are concerns regarding the preservation of gains on human rights. Since the international intervention in 2001, Afghanistan has made advances on women's rights, but despite improvements on gender neutral legislation, the country is still lacking in progress towards gender equality and non-discrimination. Still, as social change and new technology shapes attitudes towards gender, there is a general awareness that there should be no scaling back on women's empowerment.
– Women are not ready to lose out on the achievements over the last two decades, says Nabila Musleh, deputy Minister for Women’s Affairs.
– They want to be directly involved in the peace talks and stand up for the protection of women’s rights themselves.
There is a commonly held view that the peace process can only be sustained when women’s rights are ensured. The EU contributes to women’s role in peace building both at national level as well as in the local community. Projects target women’s participation in decision making, as well as training female members appointed to Afghanistan's High Peace Council. Through the trust fund set up by donors for the Afghan police force, EU funds contribute to the training of women police officers and to promoting women in management position with the Afghan Ministry of the Interior.
In the coming years, more support will go to women’s economic empowerment, also by means of the State-Building Contract the EU now begins to implement with Afghanistan. There is also a focus on skills development, both through reintegration programs for migrants and community-based livelihood projects on improving literacy and vocational skills among women. Through the Ethical Initiative, run by the International Trace Centre, traditional skills are applied to produce artisanal goods for new export streams, also involving women’s craftsmanship.
To mark International Women’s Day, the EU also co-funded a campaign on Afghan women’s businesses, which will continue informing women entrepreneurs on how to become part of the formal Afghan economy.