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Statement of H.E. Ambassador Othman JERANDI,
Chairperson of the Commission on the Status of Women
at the International Women's Day
March 8th, 2002

Mr. Moderator, Excellencies, fellow delegates, colleagues and friends,

I am honored to speak at this celebration of International Women's Day. I am particularly pleased that on this International Women's Day we are able to express our solidarity with Afghan women, as they, with the rest of their country, embark on the road to reconciliation and reconstruction.

Since 1998, the Commission on the Status of Women, which I am honored to chair, has dealt with the situation o£ women in Afghanistan. Since that time, the grave violations of the human rights of women and girls in all areas of Afghanistan, particularly in areas controlled by the Taliban, were a source of grave concern to the Commission.

Restrictions on women's access to health care, on access to education and employment outside the home, were repeatedly highlighted by the Commission, as well as restrictions on freedom of movement and on freedom from intimidation, harassment and violence. The Commission urged all parties, and in particular the Taliban, to act in accordance with international humanitarian law and human rights, and to bring an end to all human rights violations against women and girls.

The Commission not only condemned these violations of the rights of women and girls, it also called on the international community to support women in Afghanistan through their programmes, and to give special attention to the promotion and protection of the human rights of women and girls in Afghanistan.

This year, the Commission has the unprecedented opportunity to support the women of Afghanistan as they work to claim their rightful place in the reconstruction of their country. Afghanistan is at a unique moment in its history.

The Commission can work with other bodies of the United Nations system to ensure that all actions to rebuild the country and put it on a path of sustainable peace and development incorporate a gender perspective. Special attention should be directed to the promotion and protection of the human rights of women and girls in Afghanistan.

Afghan women should once again enjoy the right to work, education, security of person, freedom of movement and association, freedom of opinion and expression to which they are entitled. Their access to health care is essential. It is crucial that strategies to rebuild the country ensure Afghan women's full participation in the civil, cultural, economic, political and social life of the country. Afghan women's voices must be heard when priorities are set and resources allocated.

We all agree that the challenges ahead are tremendous but we are also convinced that they could be overcome with the good will of Afghan people and the international commitment towards Afghanistan. We deeply believe that women's emancipation is fundamental to human development in all its dimensions.

We, in Tunisia, throughout our history, have attached great importance to the promotion of women's rights. Indeed, six months after its independence in 1956, Tunisia adopted its Personal Status Code, the first one in the Arab world, which set up a new organization of the family based on equality of rights. Since then, women in Tunisia enjoyed equal access to education, health care and employment. They gained their autonomy and have been actively participating in public and political life. Tunisia has also committed itself to the implementation of international instruments concerning human rights in particular those promoting women's condition especially the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against women and its optional Protocol.

Starting a new era in its history, Afghanistan should also rely on all its human resources to rebuild itself. Women should be involved in all phases of peace building and reconstruction as a full participant at all levels of governance and decision-making.

Ladies and gentlemen,

In today's celebration, we should have a special thought to all other women around the world, victims of wars and armed conflicts and living in critical humanitarian situation.

Thank you very much.