As Afghans love to say, Afghanistan is a country situated in the heart of Asia. Because of its strategic location, Afghanistan has been a war zone for decades now, and my country’s women are more vulnerable to fall victim to the many wars and regimes. Due to several decades of ongoing violence, Afghan women’s rights have been dramatically affected. Because of this, I have questioned, challenged, and worked to change the social norms, customs, and traditions that undermine women. Immediately after graduating from high school, I began joining different women’s movements. I actively took part in advocacy and lobbying initiatives on Elimination of Violence Against Women Law, UN Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace, and Security, Convention on Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women, and Registration of Marriage as a step toward reducing illegal marriages in Afghanistan.
My eight years of experience working directly with Afghan women and Afghan civil society, my education in the US, and the work I have done thus far with Women for Afghan Women’s advocacy team in DC, have taught me that the best approach for development in Afghanistan would be to empower its people by enabling them to help themselves. Including Afghans in the development process is absolutely necessary for progress. UNDP’s Human Development report placed great emphasis on human development and resilience building for the reduction of vulnerabilities and sustainable development. I strongly believe that if we empower women, the most vulnerable group in the country, and build their skill set, the development process can be accelerated and more viable.
To enhance the development process the donor community should follow an inclusive bottom up approach in design and implementation. Locals are the experts on their own problems and they can often identify the root causes of larger issues within their community. Therefore all locals, including women, are in a better place to come up with profound initiatives to solve those problems in a more practical and sustainable manner. The World Bank also accentuates the importance of following an inclusive approach for sustainable development. “Sustainable development recognizes that growth must be both inclusive and environmentally sound to reduce poverty and build shared prosperity for today’s population and to continue to meet the needs of future generations. It is efficient with resources and carefully planned to deliver both immediate and long-term benefits for people, planet, and prosperity.”
Sustainable development is only possible if women are included in economic, environmental, social, and political spheres at all levels. In a male dominated society like Afghanistan, women have always had their distinct challenges. These challenges can only be solved if women are part of the solution. It is also essential to utilize the other half of the population’s potential in the development process in my country for better results. My suggestion to the international community would be to follow an inclusive approach by allowing locals to not only identify their problems, but to also enable them to independently find their own solutions. I strongly believe that Afghanistan can transform into a peaceful and prosperous country by localizing the initiatives, and empowering the Afghan people to play a more active, independent role in the development process.
Written by Nabila Wafeq