On December 7, the EastWest Institute and the Parliamentarians Network for Conflict Prevention convened female parliamentarians from Afghanistan and neighboring countries, as well as western advocates, to help Afghan women legislate more effectively and work towards peace.
“The international communities are helping,” said Dr. Husn Banu Ghazanfar, Minister of Women Affairs, Afghanistan, who delivered the keynote address. “But I request help from the international community for the education and capacity-building.” Ghazanfar also emphasized the need for western help rebuilding infrastructure, like roads, schools and hospitals, damaged in the war.
In particular, the conference explored how women politicians from more experienced democracies in the west can support women politicians in Afghanistan. Many participants said that the conference itself was a good first step.
“The voice of Afghan women MPs is something we don’t hear very often, and it’s really good to get their impressions of challenges they face,” said Meg Munn, a British MP.
Munn added that, as it’s all too easy for western governments to concentrate on solely on security issues in Afghanistan, western parliamentarians can play a crucial role in redirecting political attention to Afghan women’s well-being.
Margareta Cederfelt, an MP from Sweden, said that she and her counterparts can offer knowledge and help rebuilding civil society, but that perhaps the most immediate help they can offer is an e-mail address. She explained, “It’s hard to be a politician without a network.”
For Munn, the e-mail addresses exchanged offer a means of daily support and communication between western and Afghan parliamentarians. “I honestly feel that some of their challenges they face can be better understood by women in the other regional parliaments,” said Munn. “But that doesn’t mean we won’t offer help where we can”