Participation and Representation at 4th Annual Afghan Women’s Symposium

The Symposium on Afghan Women was started in 2013 and it has now become an established tradition to hold a symposium on Afghan Women every year. The first symposium took place in Washington DC, on 15 November 2013.

This was followed by a second symposium in November 2014 in Oslo. The 3rd symposium was held in Kabul, from 20 – 22 May 2016. Likewise, this, the 4th symposium, took place at the Presidential Palace in Kabul, with the title "Afghan Women, Messengers of Peace” from 14 to 17 May 2017, under the patronage of Afghanistan's First Lady, Mrs. Bibi Gul Rula Ghani.

President Ashraf Ghani addresses a symposium on women and peace in #Kabul, May 15, 2017. Copy right ARG.
President Ashraf Ghani addresses a symposium on women and peace in #Kabul, May 15, 2017. Copy right ARG.

Keynote speakers were the Afghan president, Mr. Mohammad Ashraf Ghani, the Foreign Affairs Minister, the EU delegation, and representatives of the various diplomatic missions from western countries that are present in Afghanistan, including Her Excellency, the Ambassador, Ms. Mari Skåre, from the Royal Norwegian Embassy. During her presentation at the Symposium, the RNE Ambassador stated, “Norway and Afghanistan have a strong partnership. A key priority in this partnership is to strengthen the role and position of women.” She further said, “Norway is eager to see the advancement of the women’s empowerment agenda,” and “…Women’s presence at the negotiation table and the political structure of Afghanistan is necessary”. The Afghan President praised the good work done by NCA’s partner, the Sanayee Development Organization (SDO), which had a key role in facilitating the Symposium, to which they did a remarkable job.

RNE Ambassador fourth from the left attending the symposium. Copy right ARG.
RNE Ambassador fourth from the left attending the symposium. Copy right ARG.

More than 300 guests attended the Symposium, including Afghan officials, foreign delegates, NGOs, the UN, embassy missions, and more than 100 representatives of 34 provinces of Afghanistan. Three NCA staff members were also present at this symposium.

The participants discussed the ongoing challenges women face in Afghanistan and presented the following recommendations:

  • Women can play an active role in establishing a culture of peace through peace education and awareness. In addition, they can play a good role as mediators.
  • Women need the strong support of the government and the community, especially religious leaders, and are in need of more capacity building opportunities. Furthermore, increasing the number of women present in Provincial Councils and Provincial Peace Councils (PPCs) will greatly benefit their respective communities.
  • It is necessary to establish a women’s network/mechanism at the community, district and provincial levels, which are led by women, along with the establishment of linkages between the different peacebuilding structures.

The three-day symposium was an excellent opportunity for all participants, and also for NCA, to build relationships, and share experiences with other NGOs and governmental officials. NCA representatives had the opportunity to meet with the First Lady and managed to make appointments for future collaborative meetings.

Participants attending the symposium. Copyright ARG.
Participants attending the symposium. Copyright ARG.

One of the NCA staff member who participated said, “I was very enthusiastic when I analysed that from the recommendations made to the government, from the different women’s groups, NCA is already actively engaged on those issues. This includes working with religious leaders and male members to change their views about women’s participation, the establishment of community and district level peace Shuras, connecting with PPCs, capacity building and exposure visit opportunities, providing peace education and awareness at schools and sport activities for peace. I recommend, to include or organise a religious actor’s symposium, under the NCA NUCP network, where religious actors can present their roles, achievements and challenges through panel discussions and devise strategies for further action.”