Recent meetings of prominent political leaders have been held without the presence of women, which has sparked reactions from activists who said women should be given a role in decision-making about the future of the country.
This week two meetings were held with US special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad–one with President Ashraf Ghani and another with Abdullah Abdullah, head of the High Council for National Reconciliation, and there were no women present.
In another meeting, Ghani and Abdullah met with a number of former mujahideen leaders and some prominent politicians. No women were present in these meetings either, which were held to discuss the next steps in the peace process, including a quick start of the intra-Afghan negotiations.
“The country’s politicians should ensure the presence of all citizens in big decision-making for the government, but, regretfully, they are forgetting women, as women are not a priority. This happens in the absence of the international community’s pressure,” said Shahla Farid, a member of the government’s negotiation team.
Women activists and former MPs took to social media, criticizing the government–President Ghani in particular–for this move.
“It means that only men’s views are important on national and political matters in the current situation of the country,” Shahrzad Akbar, the chairperson of Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission, wrote in a tweet. “Where are women?” she asked.
“Mr. President, a change in customs and habits is a difficult task,” said Fawzia Kofi, former MP, on Twitter, pointing to an Afghan way of thinking, which, she says, prioritizes men in politics.
“This issue, from one point, indicates that the Afghan government shows the Taliban that we have sidelined women’s role for now,” said Manizha Ramezi, a university lecturer.
Presidential spokesman Sediq Sediqqi said women’s empowerment is at the top of Ghani’s agenda.
“President Ghani’s key policy element on women’s empowerment and political integration have not been symbolic, but a meaningful approach to elevate women and raise them up to higher levels of decision-making over the past five years. And this approach will remain firm in the future,” he said.
The office of First Lady Rula Ghani said this office is busy in social activities and that it is not involved in politics.
“Unfortunately, Afghan politicians are afraid of women’s sincerity, empathy and ability,” said MP Nilofar Ibrahimi. “They are talking about development in the country but they are ignoring the role of half of the society, which are women.”