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Afghan govt criticized for absence of women in political roles

Kabul, May 23 (IANS) Recent meetings of prominent Afghan political leaders have been held without the presence of women, which has sparked reactions from activists who said women should be given a role in decision-making about the future of the country, the media reported.

This week two meetings were held with US special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad — one with President Ashraf Ghani and another with Abdullah Abdullah, head of the High Council for National Reconciliation, and there were no women present, said the TOLO News report on Friday.

In another meeting, Ghani and Abdullah met with a number of former Mujahideen leaders and some prominent politicians.

No women were present in these meetings either, which were held to discuss the next steps in the peace process, including a quick start of the intra-Afghan negotiations.

“The country’s politicians should ensure the presence of all citizens in big decision-making for the government, but, regretfully, they are forgetting women, as women are not a priority. This happens in the absence of the international community’s pressure,” said Shahla Farid, a member of the government’s negotiation team.

Women activists and former MPs took to social media, criticizing the government for this move.

“It means that only men’s views are important on national and political matters in the current situation of the country,” Shahrzad Akbar, the chairperson of Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission, wrote in a tweet.

“Where are women?” she asked.

“Mr. President, a change in customs and habits is a difficult task,” said Fawzia Kofi, a former MP, on Twitter, pointing to an Afghan way of thinking, which, she says, prioritizes men in politics.

But, presidential spokesman Sediq Sediqqi said women’s empowerment was at the top of Ghani’s agenda, reports TOLO News.

“President Ghani’s key policy element on women’s empowerment and political integration have not been symbolic, but a meaningful approach to elevate women and raise them up to higher levels of decision-making over the past five years. And this approach will remain firm in the future,” he said.

The office of First Lady Rula Ghani said this office is busy in social activities and that it is not involved in politics.



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