Each year on September 21, the world unties celebrating International Day of Peace. It is honored by national governments, military groups, civil society organizations, NGOs as a time to put down arms and highlight peace activism. Communities gather to quite war and tension and shine a spotlight on the tireless work of millions to create a more peaceful world.
Afghanistan has been plagued with nearly constant conflict and war for decades, and needs peace more than anything else. There have been many ups and downs, efforts and sacrifices to build a peaceful country. Afghans continue to muster resilience and continue to walk this long, difficult path for peace.
On World Peace Day, the Women’s Regional Network, set up banners in central Kabul that read “Let’s find true, fair and comprehensive peace by ensuring women’s engagement in the peace process."
Traffic flows in central Kabul underneath WRN’s banner connecting women’s equal and full participation and lasting peace.
The aim of the banners was to raise awareness of the importance of women’s participation in peace process and the High Peace Council structure, and help restore some women’s confidence to claim their rights. Hopefully, this message will encourage politicians and the general public to recognize half of the population as valuable contributors to social and political life, and inspire Afghan women to continue to fight for their human rights.
High Peace Council members, high ranking governmental officials, civil society organizations, NGOs and human right activists gathered in Kabul on September 21st to discuss the need for peace in Afghanistan, and around the world. They highlighted efforts and sacrifices of those who have worked to build sustainable peace in Afghanistan and implored the people to stand firmly behind peace-building movements. Their focus was on the importance of peace for sustainable development, the critical role of women in decision-making processes for lasting peace, and to support the presence of women within the High Peace Council structure at the central and provincial level.
Shahla Farid, a member of High Peace Council, argues that women’s participation in peace process is vital to achieving lasting peace in Afghanistan.
Development hinges on peace, and sustainable peace is dependent on the full and equal participation of women who are on the frontlines of conflict and insecurity. On behalf of Afghan women, Shahla Farid, a member of High Peace Council, described the involvement of women in peace processes as vital to achieving lasting peace in Afghanistan. Yelda Latifi, representative of Afghan Children, welcomed efforts for peace and rejected any kind of violence or hatred. She noted that the sorrow and grief of one tribe or ethnic group in Afghanistan is the grief of the entire nation, and that peace and reconciliation is the aspiration of all people of Afghanistan.
Although there were some promises to enhance the role of women within the structure of peace councils, it is unlikely there will be substantive change. Why? Firstly, the patriarchal structure of society. Men in power will resist having women counterparts in positions of influence and power. There is also a widespread lack of self confidence in Afghan women. Afghans are raised to believe that men are more capable of work (outside of the home) than women. This widespread myth is partially to blame for chronic lack of confidence in Afghan women, which has contributed to their subjugation at every level of society.
High Peace Council Members and community members fill the room at International Peace Day. The near absence of women is overwhelming.
At the International Day of Peace event I couldn’t help but notice how many more male speakers there where than women speakers. Women speakers were put at the end of the agenda, male speakers were prioritized, and the overall lack of women in attendance was jarring. Events and speeches calling for women’s participation in peace process are important, but action is what truly matters. It starts by engaging women, creating the space for their voices to have the spotlight in these events, and following words with concrete action.