Continuing to invest in the future of women: Afghanistan

In the 20 years before the Taliban came to power in August 2021, women in Afghanistan had been able, with difficulty, to reclaim some of their rights and their place in society. Until the takeover, we supported women to increase their knowledge about their rights in relation to the peace process at the time, so that they could help shape peace and have a voice in decision-making processes. We are currently analysing how to continue our support for Afghanistan's women.

The "Gender and Peace" course was an investment in a future that seemed clear in 2020. "Women need more opportunities to participate in peace negotiations," said our project coordinator in Afghanistan. For this, she said, they needed the knowledge of the rights they were entitled to as well as the negotiation skills to pave their way to a peaceful and gender-just Afghanistan. At the course at Gawharshad University in Kabul, our project partner, imparted this knowledge and built the young women's self-confidence so that they could actively participate in the peace process and the reshaping of society.

After an intensive course on "Women and Peacebuilding" in 2020, participants addressed the "Role of women and their involvement in on-going peace talks" in March 2021. The participants expanded their knowledge about the different forms of violence and conflict, learned about approaches to conflict resolution and planned campaigns. The role of women in society and their rights were always central. The 120 graduates became important multipliers in their families and beyond. “I thought that leaders were born," said one participant. "Through this seminar I discovered that anyone who wants change is a leader. Now I feel like a leader and I advocate for women's participation in the peace talks."

After the Taliban takeover

During the chaos of the US troop withdrawal, our thoughts were with our project partners and the course participants. On 17 August 2021, two days after the fall of Kabul, we published a statement on the situation in Afghanistan, with an urgent appeal to the Swiss Federal Council and the international community to take in and provide care for refugees, especially women, children and LGBTIQ people who are particularly threatened. The care provided should also include psychological support.

Together with Sima Samar, the well-known Afghan human rights defender and founder of Gawharshad University – and also our board member since 2022 – we are monitoring the situation in the country and looking for ways to continue supporting women and girls in Afghanistan.