Virtual Roundtable “Voices of Hope: Realities of Afghan Women”

On Wednesday 25 May 5 PM CEST (8:30 PM AFT), the Ban Ki-moon Centre (BKMC) and its Afghan fellows from the Global Citizen Women Empowerment Program hosted a virtual roundtable “Voices of Hope: Realities of Afghan Women” to highlight the activism of Afghan women on the ground. 

International Gender Champions Her Excellency Manizha Bakhtari, Ambassador of Afghanistan to Vienna, and BKMC CEO Monika Froehler spotlighted Afghan women as resilient and active agents of change fighting for sustainable peace.

“The spirit of Afghan women will never die”  – H.E. Manizha Bakhtari

 

Both iterated the risks to civil society leaders, activists, and reporters, especially women, and their shrinking involvement in public life due to the Taliban’s fundamentalist hardliner policies. Their resistance is moving more and more off the streets and onto social media and smaller underground movements.

“We are currently experiencing a new generation of [ Afghan women] that is more enthusiastic and more focused.”  – Gender and Feminist Researcher at the McMaster University of Canada, Executive Director of the Immigrant Culture and Art Association (ICAA), and former Law Professor at Kabul University Marufa Shinware

With their knowledge and independence gained over the last 20 years, Afghan women are increasingly trying to transform the system they are living in and resisting the Taliban’s oppression. They also question the international community’s silence and condemn global misbelief in a new and more liberal Taliban regime. 

Increased solidarity is needed to fight for democracy, human rights, and peace. 

Watch the recording of our Roundtable via YouTube. 

Join us for our Virtual Roundtable “Voices of Hope: Realities of Afghan Women”

On Wednesday 25 May 5 PM CEST (8:30 PM AFT), the Ban Ki-moon Centre (BKMC) and its Afghan fellows from the Global Citizen Women Empowerment Program are organizing a virtual roundtable “Voices of Hope: Realities of Afghan Women” to provide a space for local, regional and international Afghan activists to come together and share their stories to a wide audience.

The event seeks to raise awareness about the current situation of Afghan women on the ground and spotlight local women’s activism as well as the international Afghan diaspora and their efforts in fighting for sustainable peace. The roundtable should serve to devictimize Afghanistan’s women and instead portray them as active agents of change. 

AGENDA:

Moderators: BKMC Program Officers Jessica Besch and Viola Christian

Welcome Remarks: BKMC CEO Monika Froehler

Opening Remarks: H.E. Ambassador Manizha Bakhtari, Ambassador of the Republic of Afghanistan to Vienna

Roundtable Discussion:

  • Hooria Sardar, Former Director-General of Women’s Economic Empowerment and Child Care at the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs in Afghanistan (MoLSA), Gender and Women Studies Expert, Women’s Rights Activist, and BKMC Global Citizen Fellow

  • Marufa Shinware, Gender and Feminist Researcher at the McMaster University of Canada, Executive Director of the Immigrant Culture and Art Association (ICAA), and former Law Professor at Kabul University

  • Dr. Zahra M., Dentist and Leader of the Afghan Women’s Unity and Solidarity Group 

BACKGROUND:

In 2019, at the margins of the first BKMC Women Empowerment Program, the Centre together with the Diplomatic Academy of Vienna and Women in International Security Austria organized the event “ A Long Road to Peace – Realities, Hopes, and Visions from Afghanistan”, featuring five of its stellar Afghan women fellows and activists as speakers. Processes of peace talks between the United States and the Taliban in that year gave reason for hope for a secure, democratic, and equal Afghanistan. Including women in these negotiations was deemed crucial for the achievement of sustainable peace and women’s rights. The fellows suggested solutions for their country’s challenges, talked about their own initiatives, and discussed women’s roles in decision-making and peace processes.

The developments since August 2021 and the internationally unrecognized governmental rule by the Taliban have once again crushed the rights and dignity of women and girls, spiraling into a humanitarian crisis as we speak. While some were able to leave Afghanistan on time, many are still stuck or staying voluntarily to defend their country against the authoritarian and extremist Taliban regime.

Adhering to its mission statement of empowering women and leaving no one behind, the BKMC wants to create a safe platform for its Afghan fellows to raise awareness about the situation of Afghan women and youth on the ground by jointly organizing an virtual roundtable. 

Register for the event here to join or zoom or click here to set a reminder for our live stream via YouTube. 

Ban Ki-moon Centre co-hosts a peace talk with the WEP Asia fellows from Afghanistan

The Ban Ki-moon Centre for Global Citizens, the Diplomatic Academy of Vienna, and the Women in International Security (WIIS) Austria co-hosted an event titled “A Long Road to Peace: Realities, Hopes, and Visions from Afghanistan” in Vienna, Austria on October 8th, 2019. The WEP Asia fellows participated in the event, especially those from Afghanistan featuring as speakers. Naeem Poyesh, Deputy Head and Counselor of the Embassy and Permanent Mission of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan in Vienna, pointed out some of the main problems of the peace process in Afghanistan.
“There are many actors, but they have different goals,” said Poyesh.
He also addressed the issue of gender inequality in the peace process as women in Afghanistan society are rather expected to stay home. Poyesh emphasized that
“we should seek peace” and that “we should not follow the seasonal policies based on elections and relationships,”
Viola Christian, Coordinator of the Women’s Empowerment Program, introduced to the gathered crowd the mission and the work of the Ban Ki-moon Centre as well as the WEP Asia fellows from Afghanistan, who came up to the stage to present their stories.
Laleh Rahimi from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Afghanistan suggested solutions for the challenges faced in Afghanistan:
 
  1. All segments of society and people should jump into solving the challenges with common goals and unity.
  2. Afghanistan needs help and cooperation from the international community.
  3. “Educating women is so important!
“We have to raise our voices,” said Sohalia Rezaee, co-founder of the Afghanistan Youth Empowerment and Peace Building Organization (AYEPO).
She shared her story about being an Afghan refugee in Iran as well as other challenges she has faced as a young woman in her country after she returned. She was denied to go to school, asked to get married in early age, and lost her best friend during an attack. In order for her to empower herself as well as other young women in her society, she established AYEPO and taught female students in high school age “leadership, personal skills and peacebuilding skills.” The event also hosted a panel which was moderated by Professor Ebrahim Afsah of the University of Vienna and consisted of:
  • Farida Amiri, Founder of Peace Friends
  • Munira Aziz, European Union Delegation, Afghanistan
  • Hooria Sardarzaada, Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs of Afghanistan
Amiri shared her experience as a young female entrepreneur peace-builder and pointed out that it is difficult for young people and women “to take part in the decision-making process.”
She said, “our views, concerns, and commitments have to be showed to the international community and included at the table.”
Professor Afsah asked the panel,
“What is the role of international actors?”
Aziz responded with the importance of sustainability and accessibility:
“The support of the international community is crucial to build sustainable peace” she said, “the international community plays an essential role in including the remote areas and the marginalized communities.”
When Professor Afsah asked the panel about the role of private initiatives, Sardarzaada answered:
“It should be localized.” “Education is the key.”
She said that “the Afghan government should speak on behalf of us and “work in unity” with the private sector and its allies and partners. After the panel discussion, a number of the participants stayed longer to have a deeper conversation with the speakers and to have their questions answered regarding the peace-building process and women’s empowerment.
© BKMC / Eugenie Berger  

The Ban Ki-moon Institute for Sustainable Development hosts a MUN NSW conference

On March 11th, the Ban Ki-moon Institute for Sustainable Development (BKMISD), an affiliated office of the BKMC in Almaty, Kazakhstan, hosted a conference with students from Afghanistan. With the theme “The Implication of the Doha Meeting on Building Peace in Afghanistan,” a Model United Nations round table was organized by the BKMISD in cooperation with the Faculty of Journalism of the Al-Farabi Kazakh National University and Afghan students from various universities in Almaty as part of a series of the New Silk Way International Model UN conferences (MUN NSW).
Representatives from the KazNU, Model UN, Qazaq-Afghan Association for Development and Partnership “AFGQAZ”, Afghan Information Agency and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Republic of Kazakhstan spoke at the conference, and the students actively asked questions.  
  To learn about the MUN NSW, visit: http://munnsw.kz/ Photos: BKMISD

Afghan Ambassador Khojesta Fana Ebrahimkhel supports BKMC fellowship project

On March 5th, Afghanistan’s Ambassador to Austria H.E. Khojesta Fana Ebrahimkhel and Political Specialist of the Embassy Isabella Neri visited the Centre to have a meeting with BKMC Co-chair Heinz Fischer. BKMC Associate Viola Christian briefed the visitors on the Centre’s upcoming fellowship program for women’s empowerment that will be launched in September 2019. The Centre will cooperate with the Diplomatische Akademie Wien – Vienna School of International Studies to coordinate and implement a tailor-made fellowship training funded by Korea Foundation involving training on the Sustainable Development Goals, gender and empowerment issues, communication, crisis management, mediation, leadership development and global citizenship. The first edition of the Program will sponsor 20 young women from Afghanistan, Cambodia, Korea and Mongolia to take part in the tailor-made training, held in Vienna. The women will be selected based on their previous comitment to topics related to women’s empowerment and the Sustainable Development Goals. The goal is to prepare the fellows to increasingly become involved in the decision-making processes that impact the world sustainably. The program is aligned with the leadership and education pillar of the centre. Ambassador Ebrahimkhel, who continues to dedicate a large part of her diplomatic career to the advancement of women’s rights, announced her support for the Centre’s program.