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
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