KABUL - To support efforts by Afghanistan’s communities and institutions in ending all forms of violence against women and girls, UNAMA’s regional offices organised a series of events and programmes across the country for the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence campaign.
As part of the campaign, religious leaders, civil society members, human rights activists, legal professionals and government officials came together to call for an end to harmful traditional practices and to speak out against gender-based violence.
During one of the events in Kunduz, participants discussed the role of legislation in reported cases of violence against women and stressed that criminal acts should not be informally mediated but rather should be handled by formal justice institutions.
“Violence is a despicable phenomenon that affects many women,” said Nahida Asefi, a representative from the Kunduz Department of Women’s Affairs. “All of us have the responsibility to work toward the elimination of such violence.”
In Kandahar, radio panellist Maryam Durrani, a women’s rights activist, described the situation for women in the province as particularly grim. “Women in Kandahar’s rural areas don’t have access to basic services such as education, healthcare or formal justice mechanisms,” she said. “These women are literally confined to their homes where they live a stressful life.”
In Herat, and in other events taking place across the country, participants sought to counter misinterpretations about Afghan legislation. “Women are facing challenges in exercising their basic rights in Afghan society,” said Farishta Yaqoobi, a women’s rights activist and one of the panellists in the discussion. “These are not only security challenges; they are the harmful traditions.”
Another participant at the Herat event, the head of Herat’s Government Printing Department, outlined recommendations for dealing with challenges women face in Afghanistan. “The first step to change women’s situation in our country is to start awareness programmes with families to convince them that both men and women are equal,” said Mahnaz Pirooz.
In Jalalabad and neighbouring provinces, more than 80 speakers, including representatives from civil society, local government, religious institutions, law enforcement and the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission, participated in local media programmes to draw attention to the seriousness of the problem in the region and to explore new approaches.
“If women in our families are treated in accordance with Islamic rules and the country’s laws, there will be no sufferers of violence,” said Farmanullah Akhunzada, a religious scholar and a panellist in a UN-backed radio programme broadcast in Nuristan. “If the government and each family make an effort to educate boys and girls, we will witness the elimination of all kinds of violence.”
The participants in each of the campaign’s events called for thinking about practical steps to end violence against women and restore their status in society. The campaign, which began on 25 November and was organized by UNAMA’s regional offices in many provinces across the country, is scheduled to conclude on 10 December, International Human Rights Day.
The UN family in Afghanistan maintains that alongside the effective legal and institutional mechanisms for access to justice, stopping violence against women requires an effort from everyone, not only taking action but also speaking out against violence in homes, workplaces and social settings.