The philosophy of creating the Women’s High Council

25 Jan 2021

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

H.E. President of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, in accordance with the national constitution, issued a decree to establish the "Women’s High Council". The purpose of establishing women’s high council is to empower the women of Afghanistan and develop their social activities. This initiative has been taken, as a result of Open Government Partnership’s five major conferences in five different zones of the country, in which 600 representatives from various walks of life have been attended. 

The Women’s High Council will be led by H.E. President, and the Ministry of Women Affairs together with the Administrative Office of the President will take forward the secretariat affairs of the council. The council will focus on women empowerment, ensuring women’s rights, increasing coordination with international partners, and better policy execution. Meanwhile, this will create mobilization and coordination among the women, as well to facilitate women's access to the Afghan government’s leadership in order to present women’s desires. 

The women’s high council has 26 permanent members from different sectors of the Afghan society. That includes women's rights organizations, civil society institutions, governmental entities and non-government organizations. The women’s high council can also be called as “Afghanistan Women’s National Council”. This is because, in the proposed plan, the Ministry of Women's Affairs has recommended appointing a female deputy provincial governors. In this council, a female deputy of one province will be given the opportunity to participate in the meeting virtually, who can present women’s issues to the Women’s High Council regarding their respective provinces. 

However, the establishment of the women’s high council faced numerous reactions from civil society institutions and women’s rights activists for which the government of Afghanistan, always welcomes the wisdom of criticism and considers constructive criticism for improving the matters. Therefore, as per the vision of the Government of Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, before everything else the women’s "watch" conveys that today’s women are not women’s of yesterday and today’s Afghan women have rights and can express it freely. Thus, Women both inside and outside of the Women’s High Council, within the government entities and non-government organizations have the right to take a position for their own fate. 

Nonetheless, the main purpose of establishing the women’s high council is to empower women’s in Afghanistan, support their visions, develop their activities, promote coordination with the national and international partners, ensure better monitoring, and pursue international commitments towards women. 

STRUCTURAL SUPPORT

Foundation and the structure in different parts of Afghanistan have received less attention, and this has led to the change of political systems, and "dispositions” has always taken precedence over the "structure", and the institutionalization process in the country has always been disrupted and suspended. This has led to the programs which have taken based on dispositions by the political leadership in each period that has often lived shorter within those ruling periods. 

For that reason, the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan intends to prioritize institutionalization, and create a system of accountability that can facilitate stability and sustainability. Knowing the fact, the existence of Ministry of Women's Affairs within the cabinet of the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan continues its legitimate activities in the women’s scope, but in line with women's vulnerability requires new structures to strengthen the existing structure, build capacity, create coordination and mobilization among women across the country. Also need for facilitating the transparent decision-making process. 

Therefore, the Women’s High Council does not in any way mean to marginalize the institutions that work for women - whether governmental or non-governmental. However, that aims to develop and implement effective policies by representing greater participation of women in the important decision-making processes. As the Women’s High Council functions under the direct supervision of the H.E. President of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, that can further highlight women's issues closely and take more competent action to resolve them. 

WOMEN AND PEACE TALKS

Another important issue is the intra-Afghan peace talks, in which the status, presence and the future of women in the post-peace situation have been among the main concerns for women in the past one year, and there have been many discussions in this regard. Meanwhile, the position of the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan among all concerns has been very clear, which has always been expressed by the leadership of the government; Ensuring "Not to Deal with Women's Rights". 

The leadership of the government has repeatedly assured that in peace negotiations, among other values and achievements, it will protect women’s rights that have been achieved in the last two decades that will be maintained and never be bargained. 

In addition, the nerve for the establishment of the “Women’s High Council” is in support for Afghan Women on the threshold of peace talks with the Taliban, which itself reflects the Afghan Government's strong commitment in supporting women, otherwise corresponding with the women's concerns after peace talks, and Taliban’s association to Afghanistan’s future political system, this decision could have been sensitive for the Afghan government at such a time, and the government would have been ignored it discreetly. 

Another example of the Afghan government's commitment to supporting women in the country and their participation at various levels, specifically in decision-making levels, is the allocation of at least 4 ministerial seats in the cabinet of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and one deputy position at provincial governors. Also, the establishment of a Deputy for Combating Violence against Women at the Attorney General's Office in order to eliminate any discrimination against women, timely address cases of violence against the women and children, implement effective laws and related policies, efforts to provide legal, religious and legal protection of women’s dignity, reduce various sorts of violence in the work environment, prosecution of perpetrators of violence, providing awareness and public education about violence against women, etc. 

There are many examples that show support of the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan for the establishment of an appropriate position for Afghan women’s society such as the active and prominent presence of women in the security sector, educational institutions, civil society organizations, media and in the government entities, and non-governmental organizations. 

On the other hand, it must be acknowledged that although in the last two decades we have witnessed profound changes in various areas of women's lives within the country. Unfortunately, violence against women has continued to exist in various forms. Considering, the current situation in Afghanistan, we all need to take an active part in eliminating the violence against women. 

OPEN GOVERNMENT PARTNERSHIP AND WOMEN

The Government of Afghanistan is a member of the Open Government Partnership. The Open Government Partnership commenced in 2011 with 75 member states. Afghanistan became a member of this partnership in the year 2016. In open government partnership, people can influence government activities by participating in the process of formulating public policies and providing public services. Likewise, the general public can hold governments accountable for policy-making and service delivery. This possibility leads to transparency with the governments, and transparency can bring public awareness of the government’s activities. 

As a result, since July 2019, Afghanistan through Open Government Partnership has held at least five major conferences in five different zones of the country, for which 600 representatives from various walks of life have been attended. 

In these conferences, there were five working groups, one of which was the Women's Empowerment Group. As a result of the teamwork of these conferences, out of 402 recommendations, 50 were related to women’s affairs. After reviewing and matching each of these fifty recommendations with the principles of open government partnership, 13 recommendations were about women's empowerment project. Then, those recommendations have been converted by representatives of the civil society organizations and government entities into two major commitments: (1) "Establishment of Women’s High Council" and (2) drafting "National Plan for Women's Empowerment”. 

Accordingly, the women’s high council work procedure while making policies and taking decisions is similar to the cabinet meetings of the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, in which representatives of women unions, civil society, and other organizations will actively participate. In addition to the permanent members, the temporary members will also be given the opportunity to submit constructive suggestions about the meeting’s agendas and the topics.


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