The year 2020 marks a new beginning in Afghanistan. Everyone will accept that Afghanistan post-2001 has made so many gains that cannot be rolled back.
Afghanistan a land simultaneously in conflict and post-conflict situation for almost four decades, power struggles, gender bias, has once again sat across the table to strike a peace deal with the Taliban. And at the table in Doha, for the first time Afghan women who have to face the oppressive rule of the Taliban and have been fighting for their rights and youth of their country were present.
The year 2020 marks a new beginning in Afghanistan. Everyone will accept that Afghanistan post-2001 has made so many gains that cannot be rolled back. Be it in terms of a democratic government, that changed the status of women, & increased the desire for good governance. There is a whole new generation of Afghans who have studied around the world and will not certainly let the country slip back into the 1996 condition. With the US- Taliban Peace Agreement & the beginning of the long-awaited Intra Afghan Negotiations the Afghan delegation saw the participation of 5 women signifying the change that has happened no matter how small or ornamental it might be but what came as a shock was the absence of youth participation in the process.
Chairing a session at a recent Virtual Roundtable, Ambassador Anil Trigunayat, Member, Governing Council, Raisina House, emphasized “the need for educational empowerment in the peace process and harsher punishments for those who engage in such actions. The government of Afghanistan should secure women’s and youth’s rights and hopes that they continue to play an active role in the peace process.”
The former Indian ambassador to Jordan, Libya & Malta spoke about India and Afghanistan’s widespread connectivity and engagement and how India has continually provided the latter with aid in differential forms and played an active role in the reconstruction of the war-ravaged country.
Raisina House, is a youth-led independent policy research think tank which recently organized a Virtual Roundtable Discussion on ‘Peace Process in Afghanistan: Role of Women & Youth in Post-Conflict Reconstruction’.
In his keynote address Ambassador Mohammed Naim Taher Qaderi, Chargé D’Affaires of The Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to India, stated that the youth are at the forefront of fighting the insurgents, illiteracy and women are the deputy governors of thirty-four provinces. “After the fall of the insurgents, women have represented the country at international forums, and most of the media outlets began to be spearheaded by the- women empowerment, as witnessed today, herald that Afghanistan will never revert from its course.”
Adding, “The Afghan youth have contributed to the rebuilding of the country by introducing socio-political transformation. While it is important to address future probabilities, it is also equally imperative to cherish today’s achievements.
Views of the Afghan women & others
Ms Adila Ahmadi, Youth and Women’s Rights Activist and a member of the National Youth Consensus for Peace, Afghanistan, talked about the lack of alignment between the agenda of the international community and those of the Afghan women who want to play a decisive role in the peace process. It is imperative to include them and the youth from the grassroots level. “They are the future of the peacebuilding process.” While expressing her hope for an inclusive peace process, Ms Ahmadi emphasized how patriarchy has long hindered the empowerment of Afghan women.
Calling for unified regional support to achieve a durable peace process, Ms Mary Akrami, Director of Afghan Women Network (AWN), Former Executive Director of Afghan Women Skills Development Center (AWSDC), spoke about how those in power previously side-lined the Afghan women during the war-making process. She expressed her concern regarding the overwhelming space provided to the insurgents (Taliban) in the negotiations. “They do not represent the entire Afghan society. Women were not a part of the war but they certainly can be a part of the peacebuilding process,” Ms Mary Akrami opined.
While addressing the external challenges to the peace process, Ms Shkula Zadran, Youth Representative of Afghanistan to the United Nations emphasized that “We must look beyond the privileged women and include those residing in the rural areas bereft of access to essential services like education and healthcare facilities.” She pointed out that there are three different types of youth in the country – “those who previously fought alongside the insurgents, those indirectly affected by the conflict and became refugees and the privileged section of society.”
Ms Mariam Alimi, Freelance Photo Journalist, Women’s Rights Activist Afghanistan underscored how education would act as a linchpin in the post-conflict reconstruction process. According to her “The right to education should have constitutional legitimacy under Afghan law. International support is requisite for women’s educational empowerment to change the future of the country for the better.”
Sher Jan Ahmadzai, Director, Center for Afghanistan Studies, University of Nebraska, Omaha emphasised the need of the external stakeholders to support an apolitical and inclusive peace process centred around universal human rights, and women and youth’s rights; how far the women and youth have come in the past decades. And called for the reintegration and rehabilitation of those directly and indirectly affected by the armed conflict.
The Launch of Indo-Afghan Youth Forum
To further foster Afghanistan and India ties in collaboration with Raisina House, Indo-Afghan Youth Forum has been launched.
According to Rahul Banerjee, Co-Founder & MD, Raisina House, “The initiative of Raisina House is a step towards a new dawn in Indo-Afghan relations. We aim to connect the youths in both the countries and amplify their voices in the policymaking process of these two historic allies.”
“This has been set up jointly with the efforts of National Youth Consensus for Peace (NYCP) and the forum will aim to understand and foster bilateral relations via means of discussions and by exchanging opinions between the youth of both countries. And, will strive to build “mutually amicable and strategic relations” to influence future policies and aspire to increase the involvement of youth in the policy-making process in both nations by Track 2 diplomacy.”