Afghan women’s rights ‘at risk’ ten years on: NGOs


Women’s rights in Afghanistan risk being forgotten as international troops withdraw and the government struggles for a peace deal 10 years after the Taliban were ousted, two charities said Monday.
Separate reports by Oxfam and ActionAid say women’s rights have improved since the October 2001 US-led invasion, particularly access to education, with 2.7 million girls now in school, according to Oxfam. But they warned of an “uncertain future” and “huge challenges” ahead, citing increasing violence against women and fears that any future peace deal with the Taliban could lead to gains being sacrificed. “Women in Afghanistan have achieved real progress in areas such as political participation, the rule of law, and education since 2001 but these hard-won gains remain fragile,” Oxfam’s report said. “With the imminent withdrawal of international forces, there is a risk that the government may sacrifice women’s rights in order to secure a political deal with the Taliban and other armed opposition groups.” ActionAid said its survey of 1,000 Afghan women found that 72 percent believe their lives are now better than a decade ago, 86 percent worry about the Taliban returning to power and 37 percent say the country will be a worse place if foreign troops leave.
All 140,000 international combat forces are due to leave Afghanistan by the end of 2014, handing control of security to Afghan forces. President Hamid Karzai is currently reviewing his strategy of trying to talk peace with the Taliban after the assassination of his peace envoy Burhanuddin Rabbani, which experts say has dealt a heavy blow to hopes of reconciliation. The US and other countries made restoring women’s rights a key priority in Afghanistan after the October 7, 2001 invasion which ousted the Taliban in the wake of the 9/11 attacks in the US. Under the militant Islamist regime, women had little access to education, were banned from working outside the home, forced to wear burqas and had to be escorted by a male relative whenever they left their houses.