AFGHANISTAN & WOMEN’S RIGHTS

Background

In October 2011, we launched a new campaign on Afghanistan and women’s human rights that coincided with the 10th anniversary of the military intervention into Afghanistan. Our campaign aim was to ensure the UK government supported Afghan women’s rights in any peace process and that Afghan women meaningfully participated in all peace processes. During the first phase of the campaign, we focused on the Bonn Conference (an international conference to discuss the future of Afghanistan). Activists made over 10,000 hand-made kites and wrote to MPs (over 130 MPs responded). We held an event in Parliament (where an amazing 80 + MPs attended). Afghan women human rights defenders and other international NGOs all joined forces ahead of Bonn, and the result of the campaign was that the

Afghan government’s delegation to Bonn included 11 women and 39 men, which meant women made up 22% of the official delegation. In addition, Afghan women made up 50% of the civil society delegation. This is an improvement from other conferences where women’s participation has been very limited. William Hague also mentioned the need for women’s rights to be protected in any peace process. In 2012, we focused on two major conferences (one in Chicago and one in Tokyo). Following campaigning and lobbying, women were added to the Afghan delegation at the Chicago Conference and women’s right to participate in conflict and post-conflict decision-making was for the first time referenced in the conference communique. At the Tokyo Conference Afghan women made up 50% of the Afghan civil society delegation and the UK government raised women’s rights in its statement to the conference.

Campaign plans for late-2012 and 2013

We have been successful in ensuring that Afghan women could participate at the Bonn, Chicago and Tokyo Conferences and in calling for the UK government to champion women’s rights at international conferences. However,

there is still much more the UK government should be doing to support Afghan women’s rights. We are now expanding the campaign to cover four areas:

1) Ensuring Afghan women can meaningfully participate in peace and reconciliation processes and calling for their rights are protected;

2) Ensuring women’s rights are protected and promoted as security is transferred from international forces to Afghan forces;

3) Ensuring tackling violence against women is a key priority for the Afghan government and its international partners; and

4) Ensuring the work of Afghan women human rights defenders is supported and their rights protected.

In this campaign mailing we are focusing on this fourth area, supporting the work of Afghan women human rights defenders. We are asking you to take the Write for Rights Action in support of the work of Young Women for Change and also write to the UK Embassy in Kabul to ask them to do more to support the work of women human rights defenders, including the Afghan men and women who work for Young Women for Change.

In March 2013, you will receive another mailing which will focus on the other campaign areas, particularly building on the good work you have already achieved with MPs. As international troops withdraw, as peace is sort with insurgent

groups and as violence against women (including against women human rights defenders) continues at alarmingly high rates and committed with impunity, now is a critical time for the UK government to support Afghan women’s rights.

Solidarity for Young Women for Change (Write for Rights) Young Women for Change (YWC), founded in 2011, is a grassroots feminist movement whose aim is to empower and improve the lives of women across Afghanistan. Their awareness programme of films, courses and sister sessions help women to take a greater part in social and political life. They organised the first ever anti-street harassment march, led a protest asking for justice for women experiencing violence and conducted the first large-scale study of sexual harassment. YWC involves both men and women volunteers, and they set up the first men’s group advocating for women’s rights in Afghanistan. The group has also opened up a women’s internet café in Kabul, and a learning center where men and women teach literacy, language, and computer skills.

ACTION

To support YWC’s amazing work in Afghanistan, we have launched a solidarity photo action. We are asking you to take a photo of yourself & others holding a A4 piece of paper with YWC’s key message on it: ‘Injustice towards one woman

is injustice towards the entire human race. Wherever you are be the voice of equality’. You will find this banner in page 6 of this update – there is also a translation of the text on the banner. Upload the photos here: www.amnesty.org.uk/ywc

Why not run a stall for 16 days of activism and collect photos of members of the public (remember to get their consent to upload the photo to flickr and for the photo to be shared by Amnesty with YWC)

Read more about YWC in the November addition of Amnesty UK’s magazine (interview with Anita Haidary)

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