United Nations Division for the Advancement of Women

"Women and the Rebuilding of Afghanistan:
Challenges and Opportunities"

Panel Discussion

25 April 2002, Conference Room 1
United Nations Headquarters in New York

The Vice-Chair of the Afghan Interim Administration and first Minister for Women's Affairs of Afghanistan, Dr. Sima Samar, visited UN Headquarters on 25 April 2002, where she met with the United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan, addressed the Security Council, briefed the Executive Committee on Humanitarian Affairs, participated in a panel discussion, and met with a number of UN officials.

In her address to the Security Council, Dr. Samar recognized that the United Nations commitment to the peace process in Afghanistan had given the Afghan people the confidence to stand against the forces of oppression and evil. Great progress had been made in putting in place political processes and a government framework for reconstruction. She advocated that without the assistance of the international community and the immediate expansion of international peacekeeping forces, democracy, reconstruction and the restoration of women's rights and human rights would not be possible.

Security was a vital element for the future of women's rights in her country. Without more security, Dr. Samar stressed, the inclusion of women in the Loya Jirga would be undermined and the distribution of identification cards to enable their participation in future elections imperilled. Security could only be ensured through immediate and long-term funds to strengthen the Government. Assistance through international aid and other financial resources was imperative to demonstrate that peace created changes in the conditions of the Afghan people's lives. The task of restoring peace in Afghanistan should not be left half-finished, and the mistakes of the past not repeated. [Security Council press release]

Following the Security Council briefing, Dr. Samar participated in a special briefing hosted by Ms. Angela E.V. King, Special Adviser to the Secretary General on Gender Issues and Advancement of Women, and Ms. Noeleen Heyzer, Executive Director, United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM). The briefing entitled "Women and the Rebuilding of Afghanistan: Challenges and Opportunities" also featured Professor Mahbooba Hoquqmal, the Vice-Chair of the Special Independent Commission for the Convening of the Emergency Loya Jirga, and H.E. Mr. Ravan A.G. Farhâdi, Ambassador of the Permanent Mission of Afghanistan.

Dr. Samar elaborated on recent changes in the status of Afghan women and girls, including their access to education and employment. For the first time in Afghan history, a Ministry for Women's Affairs had been established with its principal goal being to lay the groundwork for sustainable work to promote women's rights. She explained that a minimum of 160 seats had been reserved for women in the upcoming Emergency Loya Jirga. She planned to work with the women delegates to the Loya Jirga so that women would be empowered to present concrete demands in a unified voice.

With regard to the reconstruction of Afghanistan, she noted that women should not be only beneficiaries of a welfare approach, but active participants at all levels of reconstruction. Other priorities for women included education of women, support for reproductive health needs, and foremost of all, security. Dr. Samar observed that not all girls who wanted to go to school were able to do so due to the lack of sufficient schools. She contended that further advocacy was necessary for parents to support girls' education.

Professor Hoquqmal, in her statement noted that with regard to the Loya Jirga, women from all ethnic groups and backgrounds would be brought together. The Ministry for Women's Affairs was assigned the responsibility of taking the lead in that area. She further noted that the future of Afghanistan would begin with the Loya Jirga, which would enable the creation of new opportunities for women and men, girls and boys.

Ms. King, as Chair of the event, summarized UN activities related to Afghanistan including a recent resolution adopted by CSW on the "Situation of women and girls in Afghanistan", and the observance of 8 March 2002 dedicated to "Afghan Women Today: Realities and Opportunities". Ms. Heyzer spoke about the UNIFEM workshop held in Brussels in December 2001, consultations facilitated by UNIFEM in Kabul in March 2002, and the support given to women's centres which would be established under the auspices of the Ministry for Women's Affairs. [UNIFEM press release].


Panel Discussion Front Page

  • Ms. Angela E.V. King
    ASG, Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on Gender Issues and Advancement of Women
  • Dr. Sima Samar
    Vice-Chair of the Interim Administration of Afghanistan and Minister for Women's Affairs
Security Council Press Release

CEDAW Statement of Solidarity

Photo Gallery

Division for the Advancement of Women -- DAW

Website: http://www.un.org/womenwatch/daw/
Department of Economic and Social Affairs
United Nations