Jamila Afghani, an Afghan women's rights activist, says women in her country should have a voice in decisions that affect them and that their concerns must be addressed in any peace deal with the Taliban.
“Afghan women must be able to meaningfully participate in decisions that affect them," she told a meeting of the UN Security Council on July 26, speaking from Kabul through a video link.
Afghani urged the council to ensure that there are clear rules for engaging Afghan women from diverse backgrounds in peace negotiations, including allowing them roles as negotiators and religious leaders in any talks.
The United States is leading efforts to bring the Taliban militant group into talks with the Afghan government in Kabul. Zalmay Khalilzad, the U.S. special envoy to Afghanistan, has held a series of negotiations with the Taliban in Qatar, but the extremist group has so far refused to meet directly with leaders in Kabul, calling them puppets of the West.
Before the Taliban militants were driven from power in a U.S.-led invasion in 2001, the group severely restricted women’s rights and banned the education of girls in the country.
U.S. Deputy Ambassador Cherith Norman Chalet, speaking at the conference at the UN, told the council that Washington wants all Afghans, including women, to participate in negotiations to determine the war-ravaged country's future.
Amina Mohammed, a UN deputy secretary-general, told the Security Council session that, under the Taliban, "women and girls were denied access to education, health services, and protection from extreme violence, and could not participate in political or public life."
Mohammed recently traveled to Afghanistan to meet with President Ashraf Ghani and other senior leaders and religious scholars. She also met with women's rights leaders, decision-makers, and health-care workers.
"In the past 18 years, there has been significant progress," said Mohammed, who pointed out that women now hold senior roles in the defense, foreign affairs, and interior ministries and make up some 27 percent of the country’s civil service.
Afghanistan has "done more to invest in women’s leadership” than many countries with greater means and women are "rising to reclaim their rightful place in all areas of society," she said.