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  Afghanistan: Women and Reconstruction

Kabul/Brussels, 14 March 2003: A new report published today by the International Crisis Group (ICG) says that the lack of a coherent policy on gender issues in Afghanistan means that the result of much of the donor assistance currently being channelled into women's projects is likely to be symbolic. Afghanistan: Women and Reconstruction examines the record of the Afghan Interim Administration on women's issues since the fall of the Taliban and urges greater focus on sustainable projects rather than more visible short-term efforts that risk being unsustainable.

ICG Senior Analyst in Afghanistan, Vikram Parekh said:
"The creation of a Ministry for Women's Affairs, significant donor commitment and the return of women to universities, schools and government offices heralded a new day for women in Afghanistan. But there has been insufficient attention to mainstreaming gender issues in the development process as a whole".

The Ministry for Women's Affairs is the logical vehicle for developing gender strategies in planning across government. However it is hobbled by lack of professional capacity and a hierarchical structure that impedes collaboration within its own departments and with other ministries. To be more effective, it needs re-staffing, creation of better internal and external links, and establishment of health, education and gender advocacy and training departments. Technical and financial support from international donors would be vital to helping streamline the Ministry's functions.

On 5 March 2003, Afghanistan ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). The fact that Afghanistan is in the midst of drafting a new constitution and judicial and legislative reform creates an historic opportunity and obligation to incorporate key international standards into national laws and institutions, in particular with respect to family law.

ICG also recommends the establishment of family courts in each provincial centre, with jurisdiction over all matters related to divorce, compulsory marriage, child custody and inheritance, and steps to ensure that judges are fully aware of the civil code and applicable international treaties to which Afghanistan is a signatory.

Vikram Parekh said:
"There is little reason to doubt the commitment of the Karzai administration and its international partners to address discrimination against women and improve their access to civic life. However many women activists operate in a difficult environment and some report being threatened. ICG has consistently argued for the extension of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) beyond the capital and this is just as important in this context, so that Afghan women activists can operate effectively".

Katy Cronin (London) +44-(0)20 7981 0330
email: [email protected]

Francesca Lawe-Davies (Brussels) +32-(0)2-536 00 65
Jennifer Leonard (Washington) +1-202-785 1601
Read the full ICG report on our website: www.crisisweb.org


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