A Broad Spectrum - Of Broads!

Refusing to wait to be heard, fifty Afghan women leaders — including two from Canada — will gather at the Afghan Women’s Summit for Democracy in Brussels today and tomorrow. From the United Nations-led negotiation table at Bonn to this historical summit, Afghan women, supported by world leaders and activists, will bring the voices of women into current political discussions of the future of Afghanistan.

The European Women’s Lobby — together with U.S.-based international human rights groups Equality Now, V-Day, The Feminist Majority Foundation and the Center for Strategic Initiatives of Women — are hosting the women’s summit in collaboration with the UN and UNIFEM.

Three of the summit participants are travelling directly from peace negotiations in Bonn, where they are serving as delegates. They will be able to provide a gender analysis of the proposed interim cabinet and push for the inclusion of women in the reconstruction process.

Canadians Adeena Niazi, of Toronto, and Marzia Ali, from Montreal, will bring the recommendations from the summit back to politicians.

Reached at the Afghan Women’s Organization in Toronto as she was getting ready to leave for Brussels, Ms. Niazi felt “relieved” there is finally an opportunity for women to participate in the development of a new provisional government in Afghanistan. “Women have been silenced by the Taliban and now must be involved in the rebuilding of peace in our homeland.”

One of the organizers, Taina Bien-Aime, from Equality Now in New York City, said the women’s summit is designed to implement UN Security Council’s Resolution 1325. “Adopted last year, the resolution reaffirmed the importance of the equal participation and full involvement of women in all efforts for the maintenance and promotion of peace and security, and the need to increase their role in decision-making with regard to conflict prevention and resolution."

The fifty participants at the summit are “extraordinary” women from diverse backgrounds. They have held Afghan civil society together against tremendous odds. Speakers at the event include:

  • Eve Ensler, the founder of V-Day and the creator of the Vagina Monologues,
  • Denise Fuchs, president of the European Women’s Lobby,
  • Joan Ruddock, a British Member of Parliament and
  • Asma Khader, from Equality Now.

Judge Navanethem Pillay, South African President of the UN International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, will chair the meeting.

A delegation of Afghan women will carry the message of the summit to key political decision-makers. Their first scheduled meeting with the European Parliament is on December 6. They are also expected to meet with U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell and the UN Security Council in the following weeks.

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