University of Notre Dame
Kroc Institutde for International Peace Studies

The Afghan Women’s Network

The Afghan Women’s Network is a non-partisan network of women and women’s groups working to empower Afghan women and ensure their equal participation in Afghan society. This post summarizes the Network’s presentation at the NATO Summit in Chicago in May 2012.

We recently consulted with more than 300 women leaders throughout Afghanistan to assess the transition of security from U.S.-led to Afghan-led forces and to develop ideas for protecting the rights of women during the transition process.

The Network found that women do not feel they have participated meaningfully in the transition process. They are unsure of how they will fare in the transition and frustrated by the lack of clarity from the Afghan government and international community about what will happen after 2014. Women across the country are calling for greater transparency and accountability in the Afghan government and international community.

The transition should reflect a citizen-articulated vision in which women and men take responsibility for their own future. Women and civil society activists have access to local communities and are aware of the challenges and causes of insecurity in their communities. They should be consulted and included to ensure that security and transition plans are implemented successfully.

The exit of international forces is necessary, but an accelerated withdrawal could risk lives and jeopardize the gains women have achieved. Women do not believe that the Afghan security forces have the full capacity and expertise necessary to address the security needs of the Afghan people, especially women and children. Continued international training and support is needed for these forces.

Political officials say the transition process is not about security matters alone, but they do not pay adequate attention to improving the rule of law, governance, and access to justice. Women identify the political transition as more important than the security transition.

The Afghan Women’s Network recommends the following policies:

  • Greater support for recruitment of women into the police force, including the creation of an enabling environment within the security structure, training for women to gain promotion to higher ranks, and adequate protection for women in the security forces
  • Mentoring and training for the Afghan national security forces so that they understand how their actions affect law enforcement, the rule of law, access to justice, and responsiveness to the needs of women and children
  • Continued international funding for security sector reform, judicial reform, and good governance, conditioned on consultation with women in the planning and implementation phases, as well as the inclusion of women in all significant governmental, security and judicial bodies
  • Creation of an independent Civil Society Oversight Commission to monitor the role and performance of Afghan security forces and provide feedback to the Ministries of Interior and Defense and other government agencies
  • A more transparent vetting process for the recruitment of Afghan Local Police and other security forces so that those guilty of previous human rights violations do not automatically become part of the security forces, including a community-based vetting process that allows women to report on the background of those being recruited
  • Development of a strategy and comprehensive budget from NATO governments to sustain support for the achievements of women over the last 11 years, based on consultation with Afghan women and civil society organizations, with a focus on strengthening capacity development programs for women ranging from literacy to legal skill building
  • Greater Afghan government and international community support for the National Action Plan for Women, Peace, and Security, with the understanding that implementation of the National Action Plan is vital to the prospects for peace and security in Afghanistan
  • Clear reports from the Afghan government on implementation of the human rights agreements it has signed and assurances that Afghan laws are not in contradiction with these international legal commitments
  • Creation of a joint International Afghanistan War Memory Commission so that the past 30 years of war violations are identified and documented, as a matter of conflict prevention. Such an investigation does not have to conclude in a legal trial but should preserve the memory of war and serve as the beginning of a healing process. Otherwise, the practice of impunity will undermine the creation of a culture based on the rule of law.