In 2010 Women and Children Legal Research Foundation was awarded with a grant to improve women economic rights in Afghanistan. The grant was provided by UNWOMEN regional office under the name of Fund for Gender Equality – FGE. The project conducted a research in 10 provinces of the country and prepared an analytical report on women access to economy in particular their access to Property and Heritance. Based on the findings of the research the project also draft a strategy to address the gaps identified by the research. In December 2011 as part of the activities of the project WCLRF conducted a conference to discuss the issue of women access to economic rights further.
The conference was held to: 1) release findings of a research conducted on to assess women access to their economic rights, 2) to discuss and finalize a draft strategy prepared to enhance women access to economic rights. A total number of 80 participants (representing government, civil society and as well as individual scholars) participated in the conference.
Key note speakers to the conference included HE Minister of Women’s affairs, Country Director for UNWOMEN, Head of Women Commission of Parliament and deputy chair of Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission – AIHRC. All the mentioned lead institutions concerning women rights extend their full support to the initiative taken by WCLRF and have highlighted the importance of the work in relation to securing women’s access to economical rights.
At the beginning a brief introduction to the objective of the conference was provided by the Chair of WCLRF who emphasis on the importance of women’s access to economic rights and it is relation with reduction of violence against women. She also pointed out to the issue of rights to heritage and challenges women are facing to secure access; both because of traditional norms exist and the practical barriers faced while approaching judiciary. She pointed out to the important role that MoWA and all other lead women rights organizations can play to ensure maximum access to the those rights. She also introduce the program to participants and wished that the conference will be able to finalize the strategy paper presented and the support of participants could extend not only to the participation to the conference but also to the full implementation of the strategy in the future.
HE Minister of Women’s affairs open the conference with confirming the importance of the issue brought up by the conference. She emphasized that rights to heritance and property are part of the women’s fundamental rights supported by Islam and is key to full access to other rights for women. She confirmed that findings of the research conducted by WCLRF are presenting the realities of women’s life in the country and she announces the support of MoWA to the full implementation of the strategy on women’s access to economic rights – Property and Inheritance.
The country director of UNWOMEN also join the key note speakers in confirming the importance of the initiative and extended support of UNWOMEN to strengthening efforts in making sure women access to economic rights is addressed and also extend support to the work done by WCLRF. Then the head of women commission of Parliament spoke about the importance of women’s economic rights and extend support to the implementation of the strategy. She mentioned the important role that the Elimination of Violence against women law EVAW can play in confirming economical violence as a type of violence against women which can bring punishment to the perpetrator. She also point out to the needs for confronting traditional practices and believes that create barriers to women access to inheritance and as well as other economic rights. She also emphasized on the need for the government to invest more on women economic empowerment.
Deputy chair of AIHRC raised the issue of fair distribution of wealth and economic power/ resources among men and women. He raised concern about the fact that women have far less access to property comparing to men. While ensuring this right can bring more self – confidence to women and help them to confront with other injustices facing. Deputy chair of AIHRC also support the initiative of WCLRF and announced AIHRC’s support to the full implementation of the strategy.
The next session of the conference WCLRF presented findings of its research report and as well as details of the draft strategy paper provided for consultation. In a consultation held right after the presentation participants confirmed findings of the research and provide comments to improve the strategy.
Later a panel discussion was held in order to discuss the concepts related to women economical rights and in particular inheritance and property, which was moderated by MsPalwasha Hassan. Panel members included MrFaridHamidi Commissioner of AIHRC; Ms. Adela Muhseni women rights activists and member of Rights and Democracy organization and Ms. Natasha Latif founder of FemenIjtahad. It worth mentioning that the scholar invited from India was not able to make it due to illness in last minute but have provided the conference with a paper detailing experiences of India in relation to the subject of the conference. All panelists provided technical analysis of the issue; key issues raised during the panel discussion are as follow:
– Illegal control over land …..
– Long and complicated disputes over land and property
– Preventing women access to unmovable items in relation to inheritance
– Women’s limited awareness on their rights to property, inheritance and maher
– Women rights over the marital properties
– Use of gifts and will (waseat) in increasing girls portion of inheritance
– Women unpaid work as house wives
The panel also reflected on questions and comment raised by participants and elaborate more on the issues.
Formation of Advocacy Group:
Then a discussion on formation of an advocacy group was held. The objective for establishment of the advocacy group is basically to make sure the strategy is understood by different stakeholders and mechanisms to implement the strategy is identified. The advocacy group will also help with dissemination of the strategy through media for public awareness raising.
A draft TOR for the advocacy group was presented for comments which were finalized and a list for sing up of individuals who are interested for membership of the group was provided.
The conclusion of the conference by the chairperson of WCLRF highlight the key issues raised during the conference and explained follow up steps which include the followings:
– Conducting first meeting of advocacy group
– Finalization of strategy
– Printing of strategy in both Farsi and English
– Distribution of strategy to stakeholders
– Working on an action plan for implementation of strategy
– Resource mobilization for full implementation of strategy
The issues raised during the conference were highly appreciated by participants. The fact that all stakeholders and women’s rights lead institutions were present in the Conference can present a high level of support and interest to take the issue forward. A high number of participants expressed interest to join the advocacy group as result it was proposed to have a small advocacy group and then a larger support group to ensure wider participation of all interested groups.The conference received also attention of media and the coverage of the event through local media was also land marking.