On 24th, 25th and 26th of July, EQUALITY for Peace and Democracy brought together around 75 members of its Provincial Women’s Network (PWN), spanning 15 provinces, to share their experiences and knowledge in Kabul. The program provided the opportunity for members to share perspectives, challenges and successes. The three-day exchange included presentations on key PWN activities in each province, panel discussions designed to find solutions to issues affecting women and a Q & A session.
The first day of the program was inaugurated with a speech from Ms. Nooria Sultani, Advocacy and Program Manager at EQUALITY for Peace and Democracy. She briefed participants about the aims of the program, and stated that central exchange is an innovative approach for sharing views and experiences among PWN members, which can lead to more effective advocacies and activities. The participants then conducted presentations about their advocacy and campaign activities as well as challenges and lessons learned as a result of programs in their locality.
The second day of the program was dedicated to group work, aimed at identifying the key issues restricting the empowerment of women in provinces across Afghanistan. Audience members spoke of the lack of women’s access to facilities and services (especially in rural areas), insecurity, the lack of family support, the low levels of literacy, gender discrimination and violence against women, financial problems, the lack of job opportunities and the lack of awareness about women’s rights.
On the last day a panel session was moderated by Ms. Nooria Sultani (Advocacy and Program Manager at EQUALITY for Peace and Democracy) and the panelists were including Mr. Khalid Siddiqi (Research Manager at Afghanistan Public Policy Research Organisation), Mr. Naveed Zulfiqar (Deputy Director at Women’s Peace Study Organization), Ms. Rahima Zarifi (Head of Policy and Planning at the Department of Women’s Affairs) Ms. Parastoo Yari (Secretary at High Peace Council) and Ms. Sharifa Shirzad (Member of Kabul Provincial Council). The panelists discussed the key achievements of their organizations in enhancing women’s rights, and suggested possible policy solutions to issues hindering the empowerment of women.
During the panel discussion, Ms. Nooria Sultani praised the tireless efforts of the PWN membership in pioneering the rights of local women across Afghanistan. She gave an overview of their work, explaining that their help in identifying local issues and advocating solutions is a crucial aspect of the organisation’s work.
Following this, Mr. Naveed Zulfiqar spoke about the experience of WPSO, and of challenges facing women’s empowerment in the areas of leadership and policymaking. He emphasised the importance of unity and cooperation between local NGOs, to help challenge the improper customs which impede progressive attitudes to women.
During her speech, Ms. Zarifi identified insecurity as a major problem disproportionately affecting women. She voiced the belief that should stability be restored, local women across Afghanistan would be quick to demand knowledge and education, including in rural areas.
Finally, Mr Khalid Siddiqi briefed participants on the main finding of APPRO on achieving peace and security. He outlined the strong gender component to their work, in acknowledging how women in particular are often affected the most by the insecurity brought about by conflict.
EPD would like to thank the Kingdom of Netherland for providing the chance to bring women from different parts of Afghanistan together for this exchange. Please visit our Facebook page (feeds can be accessed by clicking on the right tab of the page) to get updates of the Central Exchange program.