UN rights chief to Taliban: Give Afghan women ‘space to lead to find peace’


Women must be given the space to lead Afghanistan if the country wants to find peace and progress, UN Human Rights Chief Michelle Bachelet said on Thursday.

Ms. Bachelet said Afghan women have been threatened and attacked for speaking up, and excluded from positions of power, speaking from Kabul, where she met with women groups and Taliban authorities about the urgent, critical need to bring an end to the serious human rights violations that women and girls face.

“But this has not stopped them from advocating courageously for their rights and creating networks of support,” she said.  “They are not passive bystanders.”

Indeed, in the face of war, extreme poverty and unspeakable violence, she said Afghan women have been working tirelessly to protect and provide for their families and communities.

The High Commissioner for Human Rights also stressed that girls should be able to go to school and university, and empowered to contribute robustly to the future of their country.

Women should be visibly represented in the police force, courts of law, Government and the private sector – indeed in every sphere of civic and public life.

Moreover, Afghan women have the equal right to demonstrate peacefully without fear of reprisal, to speak openly about the problems in society and to have a meaningful seat at the table, to craft solutions that respond to their realities and demands, she said.

Having served as Minister for Defence and Minister for Health in Chile, her home country, she said she speaks from experience in understanding that sustainable peace, economic development and realisation of the rights to health care, education, justice “and more” requires the inclusion of women and girls.

In celebration of International Women’s Day, observed on 08 March, “I stand with women all around the world,” she said.  “And I stand with the women and girls of Afghanistan, today and every day.”

Earlier in the week, Deborah Lyons, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan and Head of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) emphasised on 08 March that women’s denial of rights to free movement, work, participation in public life and education, is limiting greater economic development for the country.

“More needs to be done to promote equality of opportunity for women and girls in all areas of their lives,” she stressed, a point similarly echoed by Mariam Safi, who – addressing the Security Council on 02 March – noted the rapid deterioration of women’s rights since the Taliban seized power, in August 2021.  “Repression of women’s rights appears central to the Taliban’s vision for Afghanistan,” she warned.

Peacebuilding in Afghanistan has been intrusive, externally driven, top down and technocratic for two decades, as powerful countries exploited the process for their own ends, she said.

Given those conditions, UNAMA must have an explicit mandate to support the full, safe, equal and meaningful participation of women across all processes, she added. (Source: UN News)