Afghanistan-Pakistan Women’s Peacemaking Consultation “Sharing Experiences and Lessons Learnt from Conflict and Post-Conflict Social Cohesion and Empowerment Efforts”

Event Report – Draft

A consultative session was held at Jinnah Institute Islamabad on December 29th 2020, between Afghan and Pakistani women activists from remote areas, to convene and share their lived experiences of violence and conflict, and their subsequent stories of success in overcoming obstacles to emerge as actors of positive change in their local communities.

Six women from the Northwest tribal districts of Pakistan joined the consultation in Islamabad, while two groups of eight and four women joined remotely from Kabul via Zoom. The day’s proceedings were convened over two sessions, and were moderated by Senior Program Manager Jinnah Institute, Meera Nadeem. The first session began with all participants sharing their cross-border experiences and challenges of living in conflict zones, and success stories of particular challenges they overcame. The aim of this opening session was to identify the commonalities and differences in lived experiences that would further help set the tone for ensuing discussions, on ways forward to mutually benefit the groups of women in their grassroot efforts towards peacebuilding, and conflict and violence free societies for women.

After this, the participants were divided into break out groups to discuss and shortlist problem statements earlier identified, and workable solutions listed as key recommendations for both governments to adopt for a more women inclusive path towards development and peace. This peacebuilding consultative meeting was supported by the Government of Canada mission Kabul, and Islamabad, with representatives present in the day long engagement. The policy recommendations shared by both groups of the Afghan and Pakistani participants are listed below.

Recommendations from Pakistani participants:

 Problem

  • Deep Patriarchial roots cause discrimination and negative attitudes towards women. Militancy (Extremist behavior towards women) is rooted in patriarchal culture.
  • Lack of access to Development infrastructure such as in health and education is a serious structural hurdle.
  • Lack of economic empowerment is a significant hurdle towards representation in political and social structure.

Long term measures

  1. Women representation and inclusion in existing social, cultural, and political platforms.
  2. Dialogue with religious leaders and militants to ask for women’s rights given by Islam and other religions.
  3. Official national ID cards and Voter Registration for women. There needs to be pressure on the government that women in Afghanistan have an ID card and are registered as a voter, similar to how it was done in Pakistan.
  4. Development Infrastructure should be made available to enable the participation of women in society.
  5.  Establishment of women’s networks and forums at the grassroots level to organize and mobilize them to become able to resolve their issues themselves in the longer run.
  6. Establishment of a Pak-Afghan women’s network with branches and focal persons in each province/district in both countries to continue sharing knowledge and information with each other.
  7. Focus on economic empowerment and access to finance and skills to help with income generation at the lowest level, especially in rural areas. Pakistan’s example of the BISP; a program that is only focused on women’s economic empowerment.
  8. Pak’s success with the Lady Health Workers programme has been a success for providing maternal and child care, polio, and now COVID, this is something that can also be replicated in Afghanistan.
  9. Establishment of women-only banks that provide small loans and other financial services to women.
  10. Women Islamic scholars should be given space in high-level policy dialogues and media forums so that they can be a part of the discourse and normalize the presence of women in such spheres.
  11. The women leaders, activists & rights defenders also need capacity building and exposure to national and international networks. These women leaders can further train their women community at the local level.
  12. It has taken years for Pakistan to properly flesh out programmes such as BISP and LHW. Training exchanges between Afghan and Pak government or civil society organisations can take place for greater capacity building.

Recommendations from Afghan Participants:

  1. Mothers of people who lost their lives, they should be contacted. See what we should do for them. We should convey what is said by grieving mothers to the leaders in higher authorities.
  2. Political personalities should listen to the people who suffered, instead of deciding for themselves, because the people are the ones who really experienced all these things.
  3. How to act; two groups. Those people who have religious education. And those who are educated in real terms. These people should step forward and in particular male members should bring this forward.
  4. The religious fundamentalists; they resumed education, but they don’t know how to deal with others. They should work together with women and give them proper status on an equal footing.
  5. There is conflict between Taliban, extremists and women. They should sit together, those who are Taliban and not Taliban, with the women, those that pursue education related to Islam and resolve problems amicably.
  6. How to convey this agenda collectively through Pak and Afghan. The people in this conference should talk to leaders and higher authorities to tackle these issues and problems.
  7. War on terror; not only affected Afghanistan, also affected Pak. Across the border the people are the same. They should sit together and talk and find out solution. Peace in one is peace in the other.
  8. Last point is addressed to the members here. They should contact other women and put forward this agenda and work on eliminating these problems and finding solutions across Afghanistan and Pakistan.
  9. They should talk to Taliban and solve problems. Also contact madressahs and work out what sort of education is given; for state or against. There should be a delegation with females included so that they can work together.
  10. They should also work to provide free education and employment opportunities. And education for children.
  11. Ceasefire talks must also include children.
  12. Polio vaccine, corona vaccine; the delegation should work with the gov. to get this. Vaccine refusal must be resolved.
  13. These recommendations should be promoted to higher authorities. In the future the two groups should visit either country and sit together and resolve issues for peace.

WILPF-Afghanistan:

  1. Dialogues and conversation between the two neighbouring countries must be extended and continuous. We suggest that more virtual meetings, and if possible, physical meeting should take place and women from all walks of life should be included. For the virtual meeting, it is essential to have simultaneous translation which will be more time efficient and create more space for dialogue. Dealing with 3-4 translation at the same time in the same medium is impractical and highly time consuming, and hence considering all the online challenges, there is need to have meetings where we can best utilize time and space to get more information.
  2. Women of both sides must join their hands and raise their voices to call upon international friends and allies for an immense pressure on Taliban and Afghan government for an immediate ceasefire. It is the common people who are suffering immensely, which have badly damaged the trust of ordinary people on all sides. The more detachment from the international community, the larger the scope of violence and bloodshed. The international community must remain active in their condemnation of such acts and be involved in mechanisms that will support and call upon the warring parties to take more practical steps towards protecting women’s right. So far, it has been only verbal statements and we ask that Taliban should include women in their negotiation team who should also pave the way for women of both sides (grass root actors) for track 2 dialogues.
  3. We must discuss and find ways on how to encourage Taliban to permit women education and employment, with accordance to Sharia, in their area of jurisdiction. If we fail to do so, then Taliban’s double policy regarding women’s right will increase the gap in the success of the peace negotiations. We need to find ways to access the areas that are under direct Taliban rule in order to establish institutions for women and girl’s social participation, which will allow us to be connected with women of that side directly. So far, it has been very challenging to have direct communication with women living under Taliban rule and to engage them in social activities, but through such mechanisms we can be more successful.
  4. AFG- PAK women right activists must find ways to promote security maintenance in their areas through the collaboration of both countries in order to stop the transferring of conflicts. AFG- PAK women activists must work to pave the way for religious women scholars to be included in the Peace Talks to have a more direct role when it comes to their participation and maintenance of their rights from sharia perspective, in solidarity with other women activist groups. Currently the modern or democrat women groups are not very much open for the inclusion of these religious peace activists.
  5. AFG- PAK women must work together to amplify voices of direct victims of war, whether it was their children’s loss, familial loss, or the loss of their limbs, they should be compensated and must be directly involved in the peace talks. Their rights and losses must be addressed from both sides.
  6. AFG-PAK foreign policies should be established on mutual grounds and cooperation. Both countries should be not used as a pawn by other countries. Both countries must support and stand in solidarity with the other under the common ground of Islam, which must be inclusive of women in policy levels.

EPD:

  1. Response to 1st question; want to establish orgs. At regional or local level to organise conferences so can raise voices and let these reach the policymakers.
  2. As it is has been recommended that we should be talking to higher officials, reps of Taliban, religious scholars—before that women should develop their own group of women of religious expertise, survivors of conflict, those that have lost their family members (essentially all various walks of life); these women should then negotiate with opposing groups.
  3. Those people that were war stricken should be contacted. They can see this agenda and can disseminate it throughout Afghanistan. These points should be delivered at provincial and federal level
  4. There are some committees that work for peace in Afghanistan.
  5. There should be groups, and then there should be a larger group of women working together who can then convey this message to villages, cities and federal level. The sub groups should visit areas and go ask the people about their problems individually. The local groups can also contact religious scholars, authorities and other orgs. To work together to bring peace justice and protect the rights of women.
  6. Afghanistan-Pakistan is like a single body, if there is a problem in one part, it is felt elsewhere. They should come together and work for peace and protect the people together. They should collectively make decisions on how to empower women, not just the authorities but all people.
  7. Border tensions. There are a lot of problems on that front. When Afghans cross the border, its an issue. There should be flexible laws for cross border movement and to help the Afghan economy. This is in favour of both countries. She lives near the border; as a result there are restrictions there.