“100 Untold Stories of War & Peace by Afghan Women” Book Lunch Narrative Report
1. Executive Summary:
The Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom was established in 1915 to stop the First World War and is now the oldest women’s peacemaking organization in the world. WILPF identifies and develops feminist perspectives to challenge the inter-related issues of patriarchy, militarism, neoliberalism and their consequences, which WILPF views as the key long-term causes of conflict. WILPF uses its core strengths – feminist analysis and advocacy promoted by a mobilized feminist community. Its feminist methodology of building feminist peace leaders and strengthening leadership for holistic WPS implementation across activists, coalitions and policymakers also supports long-term sustainability of the work. In Afghanistan WILPF Afghanistan started its multi-dimensional activities since 2015 on localization of WPS agenda in Afghanistan. One of the activities is to listen to women stories of pains and gains and empower them to share their concern and raise their voices.
The stories gathered from the past five years by Ms. Afghani WILPF Afghanistan president and other members from 43 provinces. Through initial funding of WILPF international these stories were compiled in to a book and farther the book was translated in to Pashto and English was published. On December 21st, 2020, we held a book launch ceremony in Serena Hotel with the financial support of Norway embassy. This book launch was highly significant considering the current political climate of Afghanistan, as it will serve as an advocacy tool during the ongoing negotiations, which we can share with both of the warring parties to more successfully implement the immediate cessation of arms.
The book launch ceremony was an official gathering where representatives of Afghan government such as Minister of Hajj, representatives from Ministry of Peace and Women Affairs, alongside a representative from the peace delegation Her Excellency Fowzia Kofi. H.E. Lindeman Ole Andreas, the ambassador of Royal Embassy of Norway in Kabul who also gave a speech to introduce this book to this gathering. Some donor organization attended and also representatives of some embassies, civil society participated. The event was held by financial contribution of The Royal Norway Embassy in Kabul. Due to security situation and COVID- 19 protection measures; we kept the number of participants up to 80 individuals however, we did hold the press statement in Dari and Pashto, which was shared through email and our social media.
The gathering was not only a book launch but it was an interactive ceremony where we invited four women who were key eye witnesses whose lives were affected by war and conflict. Overall, the book launch was highly successful and was a means of amplifying the voices of those women that has to means and ways to share and raise
2. Details of the Book Launch Ceremony:
On 21st December 2020 around 8: 00am the program participants showing up for registration. By 9:00am sharp the program started by recitation of Holy Quaran by Ms. Iqra Ghafoori. Right after, the national anthem was played, which is sign of dedication and respect for our beloved motherland. Ms. Toorpakai Momand, Vice President of WILPF Afghanistan, read Ms. Afghani’s message, as she could not attend the ceremony herself. Program Manager of WILPF-Afghanistan, Ms. Hareer Hashim, delivered an introductory and welcoming speech to start the book launch. She briefed the participants about the collection of the stories by the following lines:
“These stories are of ordinary Afghan people who we don’t think twice about, but they are the ones with the deepest stories and struggles. Afghans carry their pain, grief, and loss with dignity and grace. It is different to witness pain, uncertainty, and fear on a daily basis; but what is even rarer is to have the courage to share that pain, their deepest wounds through the power of storytelling, and the sole purpose of this book launch was to acknowledge and commemorate the veiled struggles of ordinary Afghans, who are the collateral damage of war. The stories in this book can be accessed in the local languages and the English version is also in the proofreading stage. The Dari version of the book has 182 pages, Pashtu version has 103 pages, and the English version will have around 174 pages. This book contains hundred true stories from different epochs that outline the trajectory of war and instability in Afghanistan.
His Excellency, the ambassador of Norway, delivered his speech and the key messages from his speech were the followings:
- He thanked WILPF-Afghanistan team for taking charge of this initiative and launching a book of this emotional caliber
- He introduced the time period’s that this book highlights and mentions
- He discussed the essentiality of this book as an advocacy tool during these peace
The second speaker was Minister of Religious Affairs Mr. Mohammad Qasem Halimi who delivered his speech and the key point he mentioned was that more initiatives like this book launch should be pushed for as this is a great realistic perspective for many who are detached from the realities and ugliness of war and violence. He mentioned that he when he was reading the book, he could not tolerate to read more than 3 stories of at a time. He said, “I was imagining that how hard it would have been on any women to suffer all these miseries of war and conflict”. He called upon Taliban to listen to voices of Afghans and impalement an immediate cease fire.
The third speaker was Her Excellency Ms. Hasina Safi, the Minister of Women Affairs, her speech highlighted the key points of how women empowerment is key in attaining sustainable peace. She also mentioned that this book launch only highlights a few stories, while we have many stories of war by millions of Afghans. She announced her support for the activities of AWPFO and supports the contribution of AWPFO for peace, which will pave the way for women meaningful participation in the peace process.
Afterward Ms. Parasto Yari, representative from Ministry of Peace, emphasized to expand this process and collect the stories of women living under the Taliban rule as well, since they are marginalized and ostracized in the Afghan community. She also announced Ministry of Peace’s cooperation and coordination with AWPFO on war victims and on women meaningful participation. alongside a representative from the peace delegation Her Excellency Fowzia Kofi one of the female delegates from negotiation team joined the ceremony where she mentioned that these are the stories which must be heard and must be considered and women victimization should be stopped. She promised to take copies of the book along herself to Qatar as she was going next day for the second round of peace talks.
The inauguration was jointly done by H.E. Lindeman Ole Andreas, Ms. Toorpakai Momand WILPF AFG vice president, Ms. Jamila Safi AWPFO executive Director and Ms. Hareer Hashim WILPF WPS manager. By cutting the ribbon and distributing the hard copies of the book in Pashtu and Dari to the participants.
After these speeches, we had a panel discussion session with some of the female characters who had shared their stories in this book and physically they were present at the ceremony. That session was highly eye- opening and emotional, because true victors who were afflicted by these wars, but still found ways to navigate these hurdles and pave the way to advocate for sustainable and everlasting peace. Two of the women were war victims, that suffered immensely because of the conflict, and the other two women were from Nazifa Jalali from Zabul and Zahra Jalal from Khost province, and they showcased a more positive example of how despite all challenges they moved forward and continued their struggle for a peaceful Afghanistan. The two other women who suffered multiple times by different ways of the conflict, she became disabled, she lost half of her family in different occasions and almost half of the family remained disabled. Ms. Sadia who survived from a suicide attach explosion is the only bread winner of her family. With a body full of wounds, she continues her education and work to support her family. The panel was moderated by Ms. Parween Azimi from the NRC organization. The panel was so emotional and so real that everyone was touched and most of the participant’s eye were teared.
Taking advantage of the opportunity we ended the program through sharing of orange colored scarves to the entire participants in order to show solidarity for the victims of gender based violence and observing the 16 days of campaign to end the violence against women.
Side Meetings with War Victims:
As the victims visited from different provinces we conduct one day of orientation and we organized meeting for them with the state Ministry of Martyrs and Disables. We organized two meetings with Ms. Najeeba Rahmani who is a senior advisor and Mr. Said Alem Hashimi responsible for the department of rehabilitation and social rehabilitation of the state ministry where these victims shared their problems and problem of girl and women from their provinces. Her excellency Sabri Ander and Her excellency Jamila Nooristani
promised to visit them on their provincial travel and promised for the needed assistance. There was also a meeting between the war victims as well as our youth groups and it was a very constructive discussion. It was planed to do more of coordination among the war victims to raise their voices on national and international platforms
This book launch opened the door to a crucial conversation where stories of many ordinary people are unaddressed and overlooked. This launch allowed access and transparency to the grievances of Afghans from a realistic perspective that doesn’t allow any further detachment. This format allows room for necessary conversations to start taking place, alongside it plays a significant advocacy tool during the peace talks. Our goal for this book launch was to showcase the reality of the pain of Afghan people in order to encourage both of the warring parties to reach a long lasting ceasefire.