Advocating for Afghan Women During 16 Days of Activism

December 19, 2023

This year Afghan women and girls were a focus of Counterpart’s participation in the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence. We kicked off the annual campaign by hosting a virtual event with Richard Bennett, UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Afghanistan, alongside Afghan women leaders and activists on November 26, 2023. The conversation underscored the importance of diverse initiatives addressing human and women’s rights violations in Afghanistan. Key points included:

  • Leveraging tools against gender persecution, such as recognizing and codifying gender apartheid into international legal frameworks, to exert pressure on authorities.
  • The international community’s responsibility to hold the Taliban accountable.
  • Advocating for the continuation of restrictions on the Taliban, such as travel bans and frozen assets.
  • Urging an end to the culture of impunity for human rights violations as a crucial step toward building a sustainable, peaceful, inclusive, and just society in Afghanistan.

    Counterpart hosted the sixth Unifying Our Voices roundtable discussion with Afghan women leaders and activists, who advocated for the protection of Afghan refugees, recognition of gender apartheid in Afghanistan, and Afghan women’s meaningful participation in policymaking.

Three days later, we hosted a roundtable discussion in which Afghan women leaders and activists met with the Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues Geeta Rao Gupta, U.S. Afghan Women’s Council executive director Dovie Holland, and policy advisor Jill Edington. The group presented recommendations to combat gender-based violence in Afghanistan:

  • Calling on the U.S. and the international community to provide Afghan women with meaningful opportunities for participation in decision making about Afghanistan.
  • Fund Afghan girls’ education until the ban is lifted; provide scholarships for girls to pursue higher education online.
  • Provide support and protection for Afghan refugees, especially women, in Pakistan and other third countries.
  • Recognize gender apartheid to hold the Taliban accountable for violating the rights of women and girls.
  • Encourage U.S. government-funded programs to direct partners to support women with disabilities, including considering a quota for their employment in the projects.

Attending an event hosted by the National Endowment for Democracy on December 6 to discuss women in media, we report these points raised to address women’s challenges:

  • Encourage Afghan women journalists to publicize women’s issues and the situation in Afghanistan and create more diversity in newsrooms. A multidimensional approach is needed for writing stories, training female journalists, and reflecting women’s voices on the ground.
  • Improve coverage of women’s issues in the media, including education, employment, and health.
  • Donors could include conditions in their grants, such as promoting women in leadership and decision-making roles and ensuring a focus on women’s content.

In addition to these events, Counterpart published the stories of seven women who overcame adversity to help other women and improve their communities in various areas of Afghanistan.

The 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence has concluded, but our work advocating for Afghan women continues.