WOMEN’S PARTICIPATION IN THE PEACE PROCESS

The peace talks occurring simultaneously alongside the Afghanistan’s recent conflicts have served as a discussion point for finding a solution to the problem of women’s involvement in the peace building process. So far, however, these discussions have not been effective, since peace negotiation processes and ceasefires have been frail and failed. This issue raises an important question: Why have the efforts for peace failed in this country? A serious endeavor for understanding this issue has not been followed yet.

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Guideline Engendering the Peace Process through the Meaningful Engagement of Women

There are many definitions and understanding of peace in the literature. However, the most relevant definitions of peace in Afghanistan are the followings: “Peace is the harmony between the desires of people, groups, and government. In this sense peace is based on the processes that balance power between different social groups, their expectations, and cooperation models, and when the balance is not maintained between power and expectations, a social gap that can result in war and conflict will develop”

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Research on sexual harassment against women in public place,work place and educational institution of Afghanistan

Sexual harassment is one of the most ominous social phenomenon and a vicious element in Afghanistan and will fall the society into brick if not prevented. Sexual harassment, in any form, is against humanity and destroys social safety. Psychological relaxation, in particular social safety for women plays a critical role in advancement of women and brings positive changes to move forward. Creating safety and relaxation needs recognition of causes of its destruction and particularly in this case needs recognition of sexual harassment. However, a part of work is theoretical; but a major part of the issue relates to reality and should be recognized according to existing facts in Afghan society. The research is conducted on sexual harassment against women and girls.

This quantitative and qualitative research by WCLRF on sexual harassment covers different aspects of sexual harassment against women and girls in Afghanistan. The research identifies causes of sexual harassment through library studies and a data collection mainly focuses on sexual harassment phenomenon reality in Afghanistan. Data analysis evaluated different forms of sexual harassment; occurrence and consequences. Conclusion explains report summary and it ended with recommendations.

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Identifying the causes and solutions for Sexual harassment against Women in Afghanistan

Sexual assault covers multiple forms of violence such as public sexual harassment, sexual violence, molestation, eve-teasing, marital rape, sexual exploitation, and rape. Harmful gender stereotypes are intrinsic to the commission of sexual assaults in Afghanistan. Sexual assaults occur when a society stereotypes men as individuals with uncontrollable urges and women as causing fitnah, temptations or public disorder. These stereotypes are harmful because they justify and naturalize sexual assaults as a common and inescapable aspect of life. Far from being ‘natural’, sexual assaults act as a form of control over women. In 2012, the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) published research identifying harmful gender stereotypes as a cause for victim blaming and highlighting the lack of investigation and prosecution of sexual assaults in Afghanistan. The AIHRC mapped out specific cultural and social attitudes about women that contributed to “institutionalized” and “regularized”violence. AIHRC referred to stereotypes that women painted as “imperfect and unfaithful creatures” and also attributed these stereotypes to the “linguistic aspects rampant in the forms of saying and proverbs in the Afghan society.”

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Every Voice Count (EVC)

Women and Children Legal Research Foundation (WCLRF) is implementing the Every Voice Count (EVC) program with financial support from CARE international in Khulm and Charkent districts of Balkh province from 2016 to 2020. The ultimate objective of the Every Voice Counts (EVC) is to increase inclusion and meaningful participation of women and girls in decision-making processes by the year 2020. The Theory of Change (ToC) of the EVC program focuses on four domains:

  • Empowerment of excluded groups,
  • Strengthening the advocacy role of civil society,
  • Responsive public authorities and other power holders.
  • Create sound space for dialogue.

 

Awareness raising program on HarassMap for Kabul University Students

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Women and Children Legal Research Foundation (WCLRF) conducted an awareness program for Kabul university’s students on May 25, 2016 at Afghan Center at Kabul University (ACKU). The program aimed to introduce the HarassMap website to the students, especially girls to register their concerns, experiences of confrontation with sexual harassment and other related considerations. The program also meant to raise their information and knowledge in terms of sexual harassment and sensitize them to strategically fight against sexual harassment in Afghanistan.

In initial part, Mr. Sultan Ali Rahimi, WCLRF’s program deputy thanked the participants and the facilitator. Afterwards, he introduced the program, especially the awareness raising program intended for Kabul University Students to fight strategically against sexual harassment in Afghanistan. “WCLRF has made effort to provide a better and more equal opportunities throughout Afghanistan since the time of its establishment,” said Rahimi. “Many specific and valuable activities including two research reports have been carried out by WCLRF to identify and document the main causes of sexual harassment, as well as the consequences, legitimizing sexual harassment and to identify legal solution ways to end it.” He also added that creating and inaugurating a specific website to fight against sexual harassment has also been successfully put in place to systematically fight against sexual harassment.

Mr. Mohammad Ali Fakur then fully explained the HarassMap website, the goals, objectives and services will be provided through this website for women and girls in Afghanistan. He stated many reasons including empowering victims of sexual harassment and documenting sexual harassment cases were the basic reasons inspired WCLRF to develop and create the ever-first website in Afghanistan. According to Mr. Fakur, the following are the most important reasons:

  • Document sexual harassment cases;
  • Convince the decision-making authorities along with local influential, religious actors and etc. referring to the findings of this website;
  • Enable the victims or bystanders to file a report through HarassMap and /or Police investigation offices;
  • Guide and provide consultancy for sexual harassment victims;
  • Guide and provide legal aid services and advocacy for sexual harassment victims.

He also explained the icons and their functions in details, especially “Report sexual harassment”, “Take action” and “Get help”. He urged all the participants, especially girls not to be silent and take action and receive the services provided through this unique website in Afghanistan.

According to Mr. Fakur, many services will be provided through HarassMap including filing reports, receiving help, conducting self-defense classes, empowering women and girls to stand to sexual harassment and never keep silence. “As we believe Silence endangers action repetition; silence results in perpetuating the action and perpetrator’s behavior legitimation, and silence causes physical and mental damage of victims/survivals,” he concluded.

Mrs. Shahla Farid, Kabul University Professor thanked WCLRF for being cooperative in tackling sexual harassment in Afghanistan. “WCLRF has made precious attempts to reduce violence against women and girls in Afghanistan since its establishment in 2003” she said. “It is still willing to support and empower women through different means and grant their meaningful participation in the political, social, economic and legal aspects.” According to Mrs. Farid, establishing and running a first-ever website combating against sexual harassment and drafting the anti-sexual harassment regulations are the most vital activities carried out by the organizations..

She afterwards, explained the anti-sexual harassment regulation to Kabul university students and urged the girls to file reports in case they have been subjected to sexual harassment in the academic environment.

Finally, Mrs. Humaira Saqeb, civil society activist talked about the importance of combating sexual harassment and students’ role in reducing it. According to her, the university and academic environments have always been the place where huge changes have occurred. “The legal provisions including Afghanistan constitution, panel code and anti-sexual harassment and technological tools like HarassMap created by WCLRF can be extraordinary supporting tools and students can utilize them to combat sexual harassment,” she said.

 

Launching the HarassMap website’s report

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Women and Children Legal Research Foundation (WCLRF) launched the FIRST ever website, HarassMap through a conference on May 3, 2016 with participation civil society activists, women’s rights activists, National Unity Government (NUG) representatives, MPs, international organizations and academic experts. This conference, as participants applauded in many ways due to creativity, innovation and inclusion of many supportive ways to end sexual harassment in Afghanistan, also was appreciated by national and international media. The basic goal for launching this website was to introduce and publicize the website for the participants as well as the media and to ask peoples’ attention and support to file sexual harassment reports with the website if they are subjected to any type of sexual harassment.

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In this conference Mrs. Zarqa Yaftali, WCLRF’s director talked about the organizations’ activities and innovations carried out during the past two years. According to her, WCLRF conducted many researches, and implemented many awareness raising programs both in Kabul and remote areas of Afghanistan. Meanwhile, she added that establishing and launching the website would enable sexual harassment victims to file reports without letting the others know about their identity. She added that during the past years hundreds of sexual harassment cases have been identified throughout Afghanistan and women have been subjected to sexual harassment by strangers as well as their trustee relatives. Based on findings WCLRF’s research; 2015 nowhere is safe for women, she said. “Establishing, launching and introducing the HarassMap website is the initial activity and we strongly ask for your support and companionship to end sexual harassment in public places, educational environments, and working areas,” she added.

Mr. Mohammad Ali Fakur, talked about the reasons and the function of HarassMap website that how it would help the victims and bystanders to take action, file a report and get various helps provided by WCLRF. “During the advocacy processes for criminalizing the sexual harassment and making efforts to convince the relevant decision-making authorities, WCLRF found out that most of those authorities did not believe in the existence of sexual harassment in a very large scale in order to be criminalized,” said Fakur. “Meanwhile, they believed that due to ruling the conservative traditional culture structures, or social sensitivity against sexual harassment as an established doctrine, it is not worth to speak up about or to criminalize it. The research findings on the other hand stated that no case associated with sexual harassment has been filed with judicial organizations or any perpetrator thanks to sexual harassment has been subject to trial. Therefore, WCLRF made efforts to document sexual harassment cases and highlight those primitive actions in order to gain the public’s credence, especially the local influential, religious actors, and decision-making authorities. Although WCLRF conducted many researches regarding this disgraceful phenomenon and shared the findings with decision-making authorities, the HarassMap website was created aiming to document the victims or bystanders’ experience and enable them to share their stories regardless to any bad consequences.”

HarassMap objectives:

  • Document sexual harassment cases;
  • Convince the decision-making authorities along with local influential, religious actors and etc. referring to the findings of this website;
  • Enable the victims or bystanders to file a report with HarassMap and /or Police investigation offices;
  • Guide and provide consultancy for sexual harassment victims;
  • Guide and provide legal aid services and advocacy for sexual harassment victims.

Mr. Fakur also added that meaningful efforts have been initiated and carried out by WCLRF since 2014 aiming to criminalize sexual harassment and then to put these legislations in action. WCLRF succeeded to establish a committee of women’s rights activists named “Improved Coordination against Sexual Harassment” and eventually persuaded the National Unity Government to enact and then reinforce the anti-sexual harassment against women and girls in Afghanistan.

It is expected that the HarassMap website provides a reliable ground for those of who have experienced or witnessed the sexual harassment cases to record their stories and to provide technical and legal supports to defend and reduce sexual harassment in the workplace, educational environment and etc. He also explained the menu bars, types of supports can be served through this website and the contents available in the website. More importantly the website could be an effective tool that empower women and girls to work in terms of cultural development of the society.

The next part of the conference was allocated for the panelists from Presidential Office representative, Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Women Affairs, Member of Parliament, and Kabul University professor. The panelists talked about the role of HarassMap on reducing sexual harassment throughout Afghanistan, the commitment of their relevant organizations, and how to take more effective actions in the future. For example, Shahla Farid, Kabul university professor stated that HarassMap is not a Law, nor a regulation to end sexual harassment, but acts as threatening tool for anyone who knows the strength of protective websites throughout the world. “This website will play an active role for documenting the cases related to sexual harassment and also it will culturally be effective to empower both the perpetrator/s and the victim/s. If the Police investigation offices are asked to collect all the perpetrators of sexual harassment, thousands of people will be arrested, detained and imprisoned, but HarassMap website will help them to provide psychological and legal consultancies and self-defense classes to mentally support them.”

The conference was ended with Question and Answer Session about the functions, services provided through website and future action intended to be taken.

Conference on Women Access to Economic Rights

Introduction:
In 2010 Women and Children Legal Research Foundation was awarded with a grant to improve women economic rights in Afghanistan. The grant was provided by UNWOMEN regional office under the name of Fund for Gender Equality – FGE. The project conducted a research in 10 provinces of the country and prepared an analytical report on women access to economy in particular their access to Property and Heritance. Based on the findings of the research the project also draft a strategy to address the gaps identified by the research. In December 2011 as part of the activities of the project WCLRF conducted a conference to discuss the issue of women access to economic rights further.

The conference:
The conference was held to: 1) release findings of a research conducted on to assess women access to their economic rights, 2) to discuss and finalize a draft strategy prepared to enhance women access to economic rights. A total number of 80 participants (representing government, civil society and as well as individual scholars) participated in the conference.
Key note speakers to the conference included HE Minister of Women’s affairs, Country Director for UNWOMEN, Head of Women Commission of Parliament and deputy chair of Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission – AIHRC. All the mentioned lead institutions concerning women rights extend their full support to the initiative taken by WCLRF and have highlighted the importance of the work in relation to securing women’s access to economical rights.
At the beginning a brief introduction to the objective of the conference was provided by the Chair of WCLRF who emphasis on the importance of women’s access to economic rights and it is relation with reduction of violence against women. She also pointed out to the issue of rights to heritage and challenges women are facing to secure access; both because of traditional norms exist and the practical barriers faced while approaching judiciary. She pointed out to the important role that MoWA and all other lead women rights organizations can play to ensure maximum access to the those rights. She also introduce the program to participants and wished that the conference will be able to finalize the strategy paper presented and the support of participants could extend not only to the participation to the conference but also to the full implementation of the strategy in the future.
HE Minister of Women’s affairs open the conference with confirming the importance of the issue brought up by the conference. She emphasized that rights to heritance and property are part of the women’s fundamental rights supported by Islam and is key to full access to other rights for women. She confirmed that findings of the research conducted by WCLRF are presenting the realities of women’s life in the country and she announces the support of MoWA to the full implementation of the strategy on women’s access to economic rights – Property and Inheritance.
The country director of UNWOMEN also join the key note speakers in confirming the importance of the initiative and extended support of UNWOMEN to strengthening efforts in making sure women access to economic rights is addressed and also extend support to the work done by WCLRF. Then the head of women commission of Parliament spoke about the importance of women’s economic rights and extend support to the implementation of the strategy. She mentioned the important role that the Elimination of Violence against women law EVAW can play in confirming economical violence as a type of violence against women which can bring punishment to the perpetrator. She also point out to the needs for confronting traditional practices and believes that create barriers to women access to inheritance and as well as other economic rights. She also emphasized on the need for the government to invest more on women economic empowerment.
Deputy chair of AIHRC raised the issue of fair distribution of wealth and economic power/ resources among men and women. He raised concern about the fact that women have far less access to property comparing to men. While ensuring this right can bring more self – confidence to women and help them to confront with other injustices facing. Deputy chair of AIHRC also support the initiative of WCLRF and announced AIHRC’s support to the full implementation of the strategy.
Presentation:
The next session of the conference WCLRF presented findings of its research report and as well as details of the draft strategy paper provided for consultation. In a consultation held right after the presentation participants confirmed findings of the research and provide comments to improve the strategy.
Panel Discussion:
Later a panel discussion was held in order to discuss the concepts related to women economical rights and in particular inheritance and property, which was moderated by MsPalwasha Hassan. Panel members included MrFaridHamidi Commissioner of AIHRC; Ms. Adela Muhseni women rights activists and member of Rights and Democracy organization and Ms. Natasha Latif founder of FemenIjtahad. It worth mentioning that the scholar invited from India was not able to make it due to illness in last minute but have provided the conference with a paper detailing experiences of India in relation to the subject of the conference. All panelists provided technical analysis of the issue; key issues raised during the panel discussion are as follow:
– Illegal control over land …..
– Long and complicated disputes over land and property
– Preventing women access to unmovable items in relation to inheritance
– Women’s limited awareness on their rights to property, inheritance and maher
– Women rights over the marital properties
– Use of gifts and will (waseat) in increasing girls portion of inheritance
– Women unpaid work as house wives
The panel also reflected on questions and comment raised by participants and elaborate more on the issues.
Formation of Advocacy Group:
Then a discussion on formation of an advocacy group was held. The objective for establishment of the advocacy group is basically to make sure the strategy is understood by different stakeholders and mechanisms to implement the strategy is identified. The advocacy group will also help with dissemination of the strategy through media for public awareness raising.
A draft TOR for the advocacy group was presented for comments which were finalized and a list for sing up of individuals who are interested for membership of the group was provided.
The conclusion of the conference by the chairperson of WCLRF highlight the key issues raised during the conference and explained follow up steps which include the followings:

– Conducting first meeting of advocacy group
– Finalization of strategy
– Printing of strategy in both Farsi and English
– Distribution of strategy to stakeholders
– Working on an action plan for implementation of strategy
– Resource mobilization for full implementation of strategy

Impact:
The issues raised during the conference were highly appreciated by participants. The fact that all stakeholders and women’s rights lead institutions were present in the Conference can present a high level of support and interest to take the issue forward. A high number of participants expressed interest to join the advocacy group as result it was proposed to have a small advocacy group and then a larger support group to ensure wider participation of all interested groups.The conference received also attention of media and the coverage of the event through local media was also land marking.

Seizing the Vote ( Report )

Women and children legal research foundation done a research in ten province of Afghanistan  (Kabul, Balkh, Heart, Badakhshan, Kondoz, Bamyan, Kandahar, Nangarhar, Kapisa, and Midanwardak) With the financial Support of Open Society Afghanistan(OSA),This Research report entitled: “The right to vote” (women Political participation in Afghanistan) this research report points to important issues such as  Women political participation issues ,manner and participation of women in elections  and reaction of women according to the women political participation and nomination of women in the elections . sample size for this research is 2900 commend women and 100 women from parliament ,provincial council and those women which were candidate in the election but not passed .

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