While intra-Afghan peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban have started, sustainable peace is still a distant reality in Afghanistan. Ongoing peace efforts ignore women’s meaningful participation: women are included in only one in every five meetings. Evidence shows that when women have a meaningful role in peace negotiations, peace is more sustainable. Afghan and international actors must stress the importance of including women in all stages of formal and informal talks at national and local levels.
However, simply including women in the peace process in not sufficient. This report argues that women must become an integral and indispensable part of each phase of negotiations, working shoulder to shoulder with other delegates. Many opportunities to increase women’s participation in peacebuilding in Afghanistan remain underutilized. Trainings and discussion platforms build women’s capacity and facilitate dialogue, but the lack of strong communication lines to decision makers limits their effectiveness. The roles women and women’s organizations already play in domestic and local-level dispute management – including in areas controlled by the Taliban – are often overlooked by international support structures, which predominantly assist national-level women’s organizations.
Women are not a homogenous group and do not speak with a single voice. They have varied needs, priorities and political views. A diverse range of women must be represented and included in decision making, rather than only a few well-known individuals. Furthermore, women’s participation in consultations is often limited to topics related to women’s rights, gender, or workshops specifically designed for women. Women should be included in all audiences and discussions to increase their influence over sticking points in negotiations. The international community, NGOs and the Afghan government must move beyond advocating for women’s integration in separate groups and entities and instead build common platforms in which a diverse range of men and women from across society can work together. For women to participate effectively in peace negotiations, they need to be involved from an early stage and across all phases.
By analyzing the how women in Afghanistan have been involved in peace processes in the past, this report, co-published with Oxfam and Inclusive Peace, provides a practical overview of opportunities to enhance their meaningful participation in the future.