Do you ever wonder what happens to a country after all the international humanitarian forces and military forces leave? What happens to all the social, economic, and political progress that was made? These are the scary questions that Afghan men and women must prepare for in this upcoming year.
After over a decade of international intervention, NATO states are looking to escape as cleanly as possible. With the recent events in Afghanistan, including allegations of a botched election, the exit does not look like it will go as smoothly as hoped. Afghan women will likely be the ones who will experience the instability most harshly. Since 2001, Afghan women have benefitted greatly from international humanitarian intervention. Millions of Afghan women are working, millions of Afghan girls are being educated, and women are being seen more in positions of power. Many great strides have been made in the area of Women’s Rights since international humanitarian and military forces arrived. This is not to suggest that Afghan women’s position in society has only increased because of western intervention. On the contrary, these women, along with support from the men in their lives, had the opportunity to raise themselves up and into a better situation. Afghan women saw a chance to showcase their plight on the international stage and seized the opportunity to create a better situation. There is no doubt that they succeeded. International organizations heard their call and stepped in to help fund schools, health care, and shelter from women and children. Many Afghan women continue the fight for equality.
To prepare for the upcoming departure of NATO presence, the Afghan Women’s Network (AWN) sent recommendations to the 2014 NATO summit. AWN has played a critical role in the women’s rights movement in Afghanistan since becoming registered as a network in 2001. They have outlined numerous steps that the international community can take to sustain the gains women have made in Afghanistan. The recommendations that the AWN has proposed are listed on their home page, which can be found here. The goals the AWN is advocating for are all practical ways to improve the life of women. However, this is not enough. More than anything Afghan women need to feel protected against social and economic injustices that occur because of a lack of political stability. The solution is not to expect the NATO states to stay longer but rather to implement devices that the Afghan people can use to maintain the progress. From a legal standpoint, there needs to be more laws that are geared to protect women. Just recently, a law was made criminalizing violence against women. This was a step in the right direction for women’s rights. More laws need to be created to protect women in all aspects of their life. For example, laws to help protect girls that want to be educated, laws to protect women in the workplace, and stricter laws against domestic violence. Codifying these protections for women will help to ensure that all the great progress made does not disappear just because the international community is no longer watching.
What other ways can you think of that will help to ensure Afghan Women’s rights?