61st session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women is a great opportunity for EQUALITY for Peace and Democracy (EPD) to share its view on Women, Peace and Security and women empowerment in Afghanistan. This event, taking place at the UN Headquarters in New York City on March 13-24, 2017, intends to discuss women’s economic empowerment, achievements in implementation of Millennium Development Goals and indigenous women empowerment.
Mr. Edrees Omarzad, executive director of EPD, in his remark during this session, highlighted the organization’s achievements in its efforts to ensure and monitor women’s peace and security. He mentioned that EPD has established its Provincial Women’s Networks (PWNs) in 15 provinces of Afghanistan supporting the goals of UNSCR 1325 at grassroots level.
The PWN members conducted trainings for more than 2,000 men and boys in different districts on “In Her Shoes” Training Manual as an endeavor to involve men in ensuring women’s rights.
In the first round of data collection for barometer they have conducted around 3,000 interviews with women in center of the provinces and districts and all the data is available. The aim is loading women’s voice and sharing their experience to help women be heard at grass-root level and empower them to monitor their own peace and security.
A few success stories among hundreds of efforts and initiatives from PWNs are as follow:
Elimination of improper custom: In the current year in the southern province of Paktia, the PWN has been very successful in solving cases of conflict inflicted on women by the improper customs in Mirzaka district. With the support of community elders PWN decreased the huge amounts of bride price paid by grooms in many cases. PWN again started the same advocacy activities in Seyed Karam district. PWN convinced the elders to support the network in advocacy against the dowry. The agreement with the signatures and fingerprints is available. Furthermore, people welcomed this idea and now rate of dowry is lower in comparison to past.
Creation of employment opportunities: Numerous women have been employed in public and private sectors because of the advocacies incurred by PWNs members in different provinces. These include recruitment of women in education, healthcare, agriculture, handicraft and others.
Women’s financial independence: One of the members of the PWN in Helmand province, who has experience in a special kind of handicraft development, was recruited as a teacher at a training center to share her skills and earn a salary as a trainer. As well, let me mention the only two activities carried out carried out under this project by PWNs as samples.
EPD believes that the provincial women networks’ presence for ensuring the women’s peace and security, economic empowerment of women and realization of the UNSCR 1325 at the grass root level is quite crucial and important. In fact, when women at the policy and grass root level feel secure and are economically empowered, economy grows and poverty is reduced. Poverty is one of the root causes of violent conflicts. As well, economic security is also one of the critical components of human security. Women’s economic empowerment also equates to women’s personal security and enhances their decision-making capacity. Therefore, the Afghan women at the grass root level strongly recommend that woman’s peace and security and economic empowerment to be guaranteed. They ask the government as well as the UN and other multilateral institutions and the private sector to create a secure atmosphere where it ensures good employment and livelihood opportunities for women.