NATO engages young women and men in Afghanistan
Ambassador Kolinda Grabar, Assistant Secretary General for Public Diplomacy, addressed Kunduz, Kandahar and Baghlan Universities via videoconference on the occasion of International Women’s Day. The Director of Gender Issues of Afghanistan’s Ministry of Higher Education, Ms Sohaila Hofyani took part in the event to talk about the policies on women’s issues pursued by her ministry. The audience was made up of lecturers, students and members of sports and cultural associations.
Ambassador Grabar-Kitarovic opened by saying “I want to send you a special message of friendship and solidarity. I want to share with you a feeling of achievement. Many fights, now behind, have led women to have a very different status today not only in the field of security and defence but also in the society in general.”
An interactive Q&A session followed the Ambassador’s address. Students highlighted the progress achieved in the last few years and drew attention to what still needs to be done for women studying at universities in Afghanistan.
Women still face many obstacles such as limited number of dormitories, lack of internet connectivity in some areas and, in general, poor education services. A major concern is the limited transportation facilities, which makes it impossible for many young women in the regions to attend university. Young women also face difficulties when they want to do sports, such as basket-ball or gymnastics.
“There must exist a right to go to school,” said a student from Kunduz University, while students from Baghlan University called for better education opportunities and campus facilities. However, they all acknowledged the progress made in communication services thanks to the internet connectivity provided by NATO’s Virtual Silk Highway programme.
A student from Kandahar explained why gender perspectives are not exclusively about empowering women: “If we do not educate the men, how can we expect them to send girls to schools?” she asked.
Ms Hofyani reminded the audience of her ministry’s ongoing efforts to address the issues of women’s empowerment, human rights and ending violence against women.
On this note, Ambassador Grabar added that each year the UN declares an International Women's Day theme. This year it is: ‘A promise is a promise: Time for action to end violence against women.’ “Quite a timely theme indeed, violence against women is an area that still requires so much attention,” she said.
Ambassador Grabar-Kitarovic concluded by reminding the audience of the efforts made by NATO in implementing United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security. “We will not lower our guard to uphold fundamental rights - and universally recognized - human rights, including those of Afghan women, who have all our sympathy and solidarity,” she added.