Ambassador Dr. Zahir Tanin, Permanent Representative of Afghanistan, delivered a statement on 15 November 2013 at the Georgetown Symposium “Advancing Afghan Women: Promoting Peace and Progress in Afghanistan.” The symposium focused on the promotion of gender equality, peace and progress in the country and the current status of women’s advancement in Afghanistan, just ahead of the country’s upcoming democratic transition.
Secretary of State John F. Kerry gave the key note address, emphasizing his commitment to Afghanistan and particularly to Afghan women in the next phase of US-Afghan relations. Addressing the audience, Secretary Kerry lauded the achievements of Afghan women as “nothing less than remarkable,” and argued that “investing in Afghan women is the surest way to guarantee that Afghanistan will sustain the gains of the last decade.”
Other speakers underlined the progress that has been made in Afghanistan on gender equity, but also affirmed the need to push for further opportunities for the women in the country.
Taking the floor, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton praised Secretary Kerry for his understanding “that we cannot walk away from this country or this region when our troops come home; that we cannot turn our backs on the people of Afghanistan and especially the women.”
Other eminent speakers included Former First Lady Laura Bush, Former United States Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues Melanne Vervee, USAID Administrator Raj Shah, the Norwegian Foreign Minister Borge Brende and NATO Special Representative to the Secretary General for Women Peace and Security Mari Skåre. Members of Afghan Civil Society participated as well, with the Afghan activist Anita Haidary offering remarks from the Afghan women’s perspective.
Closing the programme, H.E. Ambassador Zahir Tanin, Permanent Representative of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, noted the role of women in the country’s history: “The emancipation of women has been strong in the mind of Afghanistan since the beginning of the 20th century,” he said. “Women were already making inroads into the modern world before conflict and the fanaticism behind it silenced them and drowned them out. The end of the Taliban era opened a new horizon and steps were taken to elevate women’s status, restore their rights, and strengthen their role as equal participants in building a new democratic Afghanistan.”
The Ambassador also described Afghanistan’s progress over the past 12 years in the advancement of women’s rights, and in particular their increased involvement in the democratic process. “In the last few years,” he said, “women joined the High Peace Council, participated in a number of regional peace talks, and were largely represented in the Consultative Loya Jirgas. Today, women are among the candidates for the presidential and provincial elections and the government and electoral authorities are doing their utmost to ensure the inclusion of women voters in elections.”
Ambassador Tanin highlighted the need for women to be not only represented, but also actively involved in shaping the future of Afghanistan going forward. “The role of women in social, political and economic life is improving,” he emphasized. “However, it is vital that we ensure their voices are heard, and that their role is not only symbolic, but genuine.” He closed the event by reiterating the necessity of ensuring the promotion and protection of women’s rights, stressing “continuing support is essential to ensure that these goals are reached, and the Afghan government is committed to work for the advancement of women in Afghanistan, as enshrined in our constitution, alongside our partners.”