Reflections on Afghanistan’s Peace and Reintegration Program

Quhramaana Kakar“FROM the very beginning of my professional career in the humanitarian and development sector, I had the understanding that women are the backbone of any society – their wellbeing translates into the welfare of an entire society and that their empowerment contributes direct positive impact on the overall prosperity of a society.” Writing exclusively for the Afghan Women’s Support Forum Quhramaana Kakar offers a personal perspective on the advancement of women’s rights and participation based on her extensive experience and work with the Afghanistan Peace and Reintegration Program.

“My commitment to working with women and men on peaceful coexistence mechanisms and economic and social empowerment of women in war affected communities in Afghanistan and in the refugee camps in Pakistan coupled with my active role in advocating for women’s political rights and their leadership development at the policy level stem from my belief in the imperatively important women’s role in the social pacification and prosperity of a society is. The long lasting war in Afghanistan which has also been affecting the region in many ways requires every positive effort directed to a peaceful future of the society.

Women and youth are especially vulnerable and are a strategic target of the ongoing conflict in Afghanistan and elsewhere. Their productive inclusion in the social and political processes is essential both in the short and long term.

My tenure as gender advisor with the “Afghanistan Peace and Reintegration Program” was a model platform towards accumulating specialist knowledge about the numerous ways and means women employ in their struggle to integrate in an institution and/or a process where patriarchal structure is very strong.

The peace process which was initiated to reconcile with armed insurgents, namely, the Taliban who had deprived women from all forms of social and political rights during their regime, requires greater inclusion of women at all levels. Women’s inclusion in the peace process at all levels is full of challenges and requires of women consistency and resilience to overcome these challenges.

Throughout the Afghan history, women have played a critical role in bridging the social divide, by connecting communities and individuals; thus changing the narrative of peace building in Afghan society where violence has long been considered a means of realizing interests. Afghan women have instead been struggling to turn the focus towards the attainment of peace and human rights.

Women who have formal roles in the High Peace Council and Provincial Peace Councils of Afghanistan apply unique methods to establish alliances with-in the councils and with groups and communities outside the council (s); these women had to make extensive background efforts in their determination to create a space for themselves where they can put forward their agenda. Women members of the High Peace Council and Provincial Peace Councils continuously experience criticism and discrimination and are under a great level of pressure from organizational politics, conservative elements within the councils and outside the councils, the civil society, women politicians, women rights groups and international community – dragging them in different directions. This attitude has left them with restrained freedom in utilizing their abilities, sources and resources in the favour of women rights agenda.

The limited support these women receive and the distrust they experience, not only from fellow Afghans but also from the international community, has had an adverse impact on women’s inclusion in the peace process. These women apply unique methods to accomplish their mandates on behalf of Afghan women – something that usually the international legal instruments on women rights do not reflect upon. This is one of many reasons that the international community fails to understand on how to support these women. However, the most effective approach in assisting Afghan women would be to allow and support them at local and national level in devising their own inclusion strategy.

In the light of my experience and knowledge, I believe there is a great need for strategic efforts in terms of women’s inclusion in the peace processes, conflict mitigation through advocacy and their social and political empowerment through applying realistic processes derived from Afghan women’s perception and practices – With this particular objective in mind, I founded ‘Women for Peace and Participation’ (WPP) in 2014.

WPP aims to promote social and political inclusion for the excluded groups of women and youth, through their participation in processes that effect policies and its outcomes in their respective societies. WPP is committed to achieve its vision by working with marginalised individuals and groups in conflict-tattered countries and regions, providing platforms to women and youth and their respective diaspora so their voice is heard. This is aimed at facilitating their inclusion in the social and political processes more effectively through conveying their concerns and needs and realistic solutions to the policy makers across the globe. Although WPP’s primary focus is Afghanistan but is committed to expanding its activities to other conflict and post conflict countries in order to build on commonalities and mutual interest for a change with greater force.

Women’s role in the political arena has been influenced in a number of ways by the prevailing un-certain political environment and actors involved. Women’s political dependency on various fronts leads them to directions that may not necessarily guarantee protection of women rights during and after a particular peace process. Thus their political role and the opportunity to obtain such roles, without a clear strategy and results oriented framework, rarely bear good results for women. WPP endeavours to achieve the above through implementing various inclusive and participatory ventures. Please stay tuned for the WPP website for more details.”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:  Quhramaana Kakar is a leading figure in Afghanistan working for women’s empowerment in the areas of leadership development through political participation in peacebuildingand Women’s Economic Development. She works hard to represent the most vulnerable and deprived group of Afghan women and youth. She is the former Gender Advisor to Afghanistan Peace and Reintegration Program.Quhramaana is N-Peace 2012 Role Model for Peace awardee, currently providing support to UN peace-network as advisor on the strategic board. She is founder of the Women for Peace and Participation and has also been advising policy makers and politicians in Europe and US on international intervention in Afghanistan. She also worked as Deputy Chief of Party for USAID’s higher education development project in Afghanistan. She has also worked with several international organizations on senior management level on programs focused at women’s empowerment. She holds a Master’s Degree in Business Management and M.Phil in Economics and Management from University in Pakistan, a Master’s Degree in Public Policy from Germany and she has recently completed an M.Phil at the University of Cambridge.