After the Taliban's rise to power in Afghanistan, women and girls were systematically discriminated against and marginalized. Their access to education, health care facilities and employment were severely restricted. Women's removal from the public space also meant that women could not play any role in the political process and were excluded from virtually all aspects of public life.
The United Nations has been deeply involved in the situation in Afghanistan for many years. In particular, the situation of women and girls has remained under the intense scrutiny of the Security Council, the General Assembly, the Commission on Human Rights, the Commission on the Status of Women and other United Nations bodies. For more information, please refer to the report of the Secretary-General to the 46th session of the Commission on the Status of Women, entitled "Discrimination against women and girls in Afghanistan" (E/CN.6/2002/5 of 28 January).
On 30 January, at its 26th session, the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women issued a statement of solidarity and support for Afghan women, emphasizing that the participation of Afghan women as full and equal partners with men is essential for the reconstruction and development of their country.
In January, Hamid Karzai, the Head of the Interim Administration, demonstrated his support for women's rights by signing the "Declaration of the Essential Rights of Afghan Women", which affirmed the right to equality between men and women. Thus, the restoration of the rightful role of Afghan women in society has begun. Two women, Sima Samar and Suhaila Siddiq, are respectively heading the Ministry of Women's Affairs and the Ministry of Public Health in the Interim Administration. Ms. Samar is also one of the five Vice-Presidents of the Interim Administration. She will send a message to the 8 March event.
International Women's Day is an occasion marked by women's groups around the world. This date is also commemorated by the United Nations and is designated in many countries as a national holiday. When women on all continents, often divided by national boundaries and by ethnic, linguistic, cultural, economic and political differences come together to celebrate their Day, they can look back to a tradition that represents at least nine decades of struggle for equality, justice, peace and development.
The 2002 International Women's Day celebrated the indomitable spirit, heroism and endurance of Afghan women and showed solidarity with them and the commitment of the world community to their cause. It also focused on the needs of Afghan women and girls and suggested ways in which they can contribute to consolidating peace, and rebuilding and reconstructing Afghan society.
Panel discussion on "Afghan Women Today: Realities and Opportunities"
- Kofi Annan, Secretary-General of the United Nations
- H.E. Dr. Han Seung-soo, President of the 56th Session of the General Assembly (Republic of Korea)
- H.E. Mr. Ole Peter Kolby, President of the Security Council (Norway)
- H.E. Mrs. Laura Bush, First Lady of the United States of America
- Ms. Angela E. V. King, Special Adviser on Gender Issues and Advancement of Women
- Her Majesty Queen Noor of Jordan
- Ms. Sima Wali, President, Refugee Women in Development
- Othman Jerandi, Chair of the Commission on the Status of Women (Tunisia)
- Thoraya Ahmed Obaid, Executive Director, United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA)
- Julia Taft, Assistant Administrator, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)