Peace and security cannot be sustained without the full participation of women in all aspects of society, including the provision of security, Marriët Schuurman, NATO’s Secretary General’s Special Representative for Women, Peace and Security stressed as she completed a 3-day visit in Afghanistan. “NATO will continue to support Afghanistan to safeguard an enabling environment for women to fully contribute to building a safer society”.
How NATO can further its support through its train, advise and assist Resolute Support Mission and its Enduring Partnership with Afghanistan was at the core of Ambassador Schuurman’s discussions with Ambassador Ismail Aramaz, NATO Senior Civilian Representative in Afghanistan, and General John F. Campbell, Commander of NATO-led Resolute Support Mission.
“It is important to know that a lot has been done already by the Afghan people themselves, in empowering women, and promoting participation of women in peace and security issues, in shaping the future of their societies”, Ambassador Schuurman said.”NATO has been very eager to support that process and we will continue to support it through the Resolute Support Mission”.
Ambassador Schurrman also met with First Lady Rula Ghani, an active defender and advocate of women’s rights and gender equality in Afghanistan. Together, they reviewed progress achieved since the beginning of international involvement in the country in 2001, and discussed challenges ahead, notably in the fields of higher education, human rights and the rule of law.
“I don’t really like to talk about rights of women. I think it is human rights. It’s rights of everyone. Every human should be respected for who he or she is and for what he or she is doing”, Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani said. “So in that context I think there is still room for improvement for Afghan women. But yes I think we will get there.”
In her meeting with representatives from the Afghan Ministries of Defence and Interior, as well as Afghan National Defense and Security Forces, Ambassador Schuurman addressed the question of recruitment and active and meaningful employment of women as part of Afghan army and police. “Special care must be taken to support the security and well-being of Afghan female security providers” Ambassador Schuurman said, “and I have heard from women in the ANDSF some of the challenges they face in working toward this goal.”
Afghanistan has set a goal to recruit and retain women to fill 10% of the ranks over ten years. There are currently 869 women in the Afghan National Army and 2,334 women in the Afghan National Police.
The visit also included meetings with Afghan women human rights defenders and civil society representatives, who stressed the importance of NATO’s continued engagement in the defence of human rights, including women’s rights, in Afghanistan and the necessity of further empowering women in reconciliation efforts and to rebuild a resilient society.
This was the first time that Ambassador Schuurman was travelling to Afghanistan since her taking office in October 2014. “On this first visit to Afghanistan, I was principally interested to listen to, and learn from, the experiences of Afghan women” she said. “They have demonstrated tremendous courage and have lessons from which we can all learn.”