NATO Chicago Conference: act now on women’s security in Afghanistan, says ActionAid | ActionAid UK

NATO Chicago Conference: act now on women’s security in Afghanistan, says ActionAid

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Sona, 17, a student in Mazar-i-Sharif, Afghanistan, was unable to go to school under the Taliban. Now she is studying, she wants to become a doctor.

NATO risks turning back the clock on women’s rights and undoing any progress made over the past 10 years if more isn’t done to boost the capacity of Afghan security forces to protect the human rights and security of Afghan civilians, particularly women and children, says international development agency, ActionAid.

ActionAid points out that civilian casualties have continued to rise year-on-year over the past five consecutive years with 2011 being the worst year for the number of civilians killed.

According to the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) there were 3,021 civilian deaths in 2011 compared to 2,790 in 2010 and 2,412 such deaths in 2009.

As participants gather to discuss the future of Afghanistan at NATO’s Chicago Conference on May 20-21st, ActionAid calls on the Conference to ensure that women’s rights are at the centre of discussions about Afghanistan and security ahead of the withdrawal of international forces in 2014.

ActionAid and its Afghan partner organisations believe NATO must act now to increase the capacity of Afghan security forces to protect all civilians.

In particular, much more needs to be done to recruit, retain and protect women who join the police, army and security forces. Afghan women who choose to take a public role in political life continue to be threatened and are at risk of being killed.

Selay Ghaffar, Chief Executive of the Kabul based NGO and ActionAid partner Humanitarian Assistance for the Women and Children of Afghanistan says the rhetoric at Chicago must be turned in to real and urgent action if there is going to be lasting change in the lives of Afghan women.

“During the first few years after international troops entered the country a lot of things changed in Afghanistan. There was positive progress and change in the day-to-day lives of many Afghan women.

“Unfortunately, since 2007 things changed dramatically for all citizens especially. Since 2007 insecurity has increased as discrimination against women at all levels has increased. Life has become more difficult for women.

“My organisation, supported by ActionAid, runs women’s shelters across Afghanistan and provides women with legal advice. Some of my employees have had to stop working because they face death threats and violence. Increasingly women’s mobility is being restricted, especially in rural areas due to the lack of security.

“Most Afghan women don’t believe they can trust the police and rarely report threats and attacks against them.

“There is no accountability and prosecution for the violations committed by ISAF and Afghan security forces against women and children. These are the issues that NATO needs to address if it is serious about creating a stable and safer Afghanistan for all citizens.”

Melanie Ward, ActionAid’s Head of Public Affairs says: “Huge gains have been made over the past 10 years to advance the human rights of Afghan women and civilians but all of this is now at risk. NATO must act to ensure that women’s rights are upheld and protected as it plans the withdrawal of international troops from Afghanistan.

“Experience tells us that an increase in attacks on women is often an early warning sign that the Taliban are regaining control in an area. Security for women cannot be divorced from the wider security agenda in Afghanistan.”