As peace negotiations continue in Afghanistan, former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has joined more than 100 world leaders and foreign policy experts to write an open letter calling for the full participation of Afghan women in the peace process.
Having been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for her non-violent efforts to promote peace and her struggle for women’s rights in Liberia, Madam Sirleaf has been a tireless advocate for women’s inclusion in peace processes around the world.
Research shows that women’s involvement in peace negotiations improves the durability and quality of the resulting peace. Additionally, peace agreements are more likely to include gender-specific provisions if women are involved in the negotiation process.
Led by Madeleine Albright, former United States Secretary of State, and including 26 former Presidents and Prime Ministers, the group recommends specific measures for women’s involvement in the peace process, and for peace negotiators to preserve and maintain women’s rights.
The letter, coordinated by the Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security (GIWPS), acknowledges that after 40 years, the current talks offer a viable opportunity for a lasting peace, if women are involved throughout the process. Highlighting the significant progress that has been made for women’s rights in Afghanistan over recent years, it warns against backsliding by compromising these rights for the sake of a peace deal:
“We have already seen enormous progress in Afghanistan since women have begun to be integrated into society as equal citizens. The Taliban banned girls from schooling and today over 3.5 million girls are enrolled. Women went from being virtually erased under Taliban rule to becoming policewomen, teachers, public officials, mayors and entrepreneurs. In 2019, women accounted for 28% of the Afghan parliament – a proportion higher than 67% of countries tracked by the World Bank. They will not surrender these gains. Peace cannot be made on the backs of Afghan women.”
The letter goes on to call for women to be involved—rather than discussed—throughout every step of the process, and to ensure that the perspectives of women and youth are reflected in the resulting agreements.
The letter also calls on the international community to condition aid on the preservation of women’s rights and to implement monitoring mechanisms to ensure the maintenance of these rights.
“An oppressive Afghanistan will not be stable, safe or prosperous. In order to honor the sacrifices and investments that have been made over many years, we must prioritize the future role of women in Afghanistan – which starts with their substantive involvement in the peace process.”
You can read the full statement here.