Washington, DC 202.408.9450 © 2012 Women's Democracy Network. All rights reserved.
WDN Hosts Conflict Resolution Dialogue with Women from Afghanistan and Pakistan
Istanbul, Turkey—The events of the Arab Spring demonstrated the important role women serve in calling for change in their countries. Yet while women stood side by side with men in the streets, they have been almost completely excluded from participating in negotiations designed to bring about that change, including holding seats in transitional governments and on constitutional commissions.
This is not a phenomenon relegated to the Middle East and North Africa. As reported by the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), women’s representation in negotiating and peace building worldwide remains astonishingly low. A 2012 UNIFEM report revealed that since 1992, women have represented less than four percent of all signatories in peace processes and 7.6 percent of negotiators. With half of all peace treaties failing within the first 10 years, the international community is dedicated to reversing this trend.
To encourage women’s involvement in peace processes, including Track Two unofficial negotiations among non-state actors, WDN with support from IRI’s Middle East and North Africa division hosted a cross-border dialogue for women from Afghanistan and Pakistan to build a network of leaders committed to advocating for peace and security in the region while tackling the issues leading to instability.
“In an environment of no-confidence and mistrust between both the governments, there is a dire need to help build the mutual confidence and trust at more than one level by involving all the concerned sectors of both the [Afghan and Pakistani] societies,” stated Sameena Imtiaz, executive director of Peace Education and Development Foundation (PEAD) in Pakistan.
While women in the two countries have largely been excluded from official state Track One negotiation processes, WDN’s Track Two dialogue allowed women members of parliament, journalists, academics and civil society representatives to develop solutions to cross-border issues such as security, refugees, peace processes and trade routes. Ana C. Rold, editor-in-chief of the Diplomatic Courier and former Director of Northeastern University’s Cyprus Program and Dialogue of Civilizations guided discussion between participants ensuring the formation of concrete action items.
“You don’t have to be on the margins. You are part of a generation where women are going to change things,” said Rold.
During the dialogue, participants shared personal perspectives on how cross-border tension impacts their work as legislators, journalists and civil society activists. In the working-group sessions, participants took advantage of the opportunity to engage their colleagues and deconstruct misinformation propagated in their countries about each other.
“We cannot build peace in isolation; women can be the leading agents of change in this effort to build trust and understanding,” said Yasmeen Rehman, Member of Parliament from Pakistan.
Proposed resolutions developed to increase regional understanding and build symbiotic cross-border programs included:
- Creation of the Afghanistan-Pakistan Women’s Trust, which would serve as a body for direct communication between women parliamentarians from the two countries to ensure information sharing;
- Organization of a conference focused on the challenges and opportunities to enhance women’s participation in peace processes, which would enable academics and civil society representatives to work together on creating joint-policy briefs; and
- Development of a three-step action plan to ensure that journalists in both countries are reporting accurately on news within each country and across the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.
As a result of the dialogue, participants committed to the creation of a multi-sector network between the two countries that supports the role of women as active peace builders. WDN will work with PEAD to solidify the network and build upon the relationships established at the dialogue.
“When I hear your stories, I realize you are coming from the same pressure and culture of conflict,” stated Farkunda Zahra Naderi, Member of Parliament from Afghanistan.
In response Asma Shirazi, an anchor at SAMAA TV in Pakistan stated, “I can be a bridge and she can be a bridge to building peaceful societies.”