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Habiba Sarabi the lone woman in a room full of men at Moscow meeting

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(Last Updated On: March 19, 2021)

Despite repeated pledges by the Afghan government and the country’s politicians to include women in decision making processes, Thursday’s grand meeting in Moscow on the peace process indicated otherwise.

As delegates filed into the meeting room – it quickly became clear that among the dozens present, all were men – except for one.

Habiba Sarabi was the only female among the Afghan delegates – which included the Afghan government, the Taliban and individuals from Afghanistan who were sent invitations by Moscow.

Sarabi was the lone female voice in a room full of men.

In a tweet after the meeting, Sarabi made her feelings on the matter clear and said in reference to the Turkey meeting in April: “I hope I will not be the only woman at the next summit.”

Coming out in support of Sarabi was Nader Nadery, a fellow Afghan Republic peace talks team member, who said after the meeting that Sarabi “said in her remarks to the room full of men: why I should be the only woman in the room? We have not been part of the war, we can certainly contribute to peace. 51% of people should not be ignored. Hope hosts take note of it for the future.”

Nadery also stated that he hopes an “equal number of women on tables should become the norm. Proud of Sarabi Habiba.”

Shaharzad Akbar, chairperson of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) also questioned this imbalance.

She said in a tweet: “Based on media reports, some of the invitations for Moscow event were delivered to specific individuals. Why didn’t Russia include a single Afghan woman on that list? There was also an invitation to Afghan government presumably, why wasn’t that invitation utilized to send four women negotiators?”

Even Ashraf Haidari, Afghanistan’s Ambassador to Sri Lanka, weighed in. He said in a tweet: “The presence of articulate women slowly diminished in peace meetings. Their substantive input and leadership in any peace engagement is naturally needed, as they speak for two thirds of any population, including children they nurture. Moscow wouldn’t care. Every Afghan must!”

This sentiment was shared by many including Human Rights Watch interim co-director, women’s rights division Heather Barr who quite bluntly said: “So easy for all the men – of varying, but not too varying, levels of misogyny – to snuggle up and make friends when they only let one woman in the room.”

Even Lyse Doucet, the BBC’s Chief International Correspondent commented. She said: “Strong voices of Afghan women. Is that why they don’t want more at the table?”

Soon after the start of the intra-Afghan talks in Doha, in September last year, Oxfam, Cordaid and InclusivePeace released a report stating that nearly 80 percent of Afghanistan’s peace tables, since 2005, have excluded women.

At the time, the report stated that without the meaningful participation of women, any sustainable peace efforts are at risk of failure.

The joint report Because She Matters, highlighted tangible ways to ensure women’s propositions and concerns are reflected in the negotiation process. It also showed that peace is more attainable when women have a place at the table, as peace agreements are 35 percent more likely to last beyond fifteen years when women effectively engage in them.

“Continued exclusion of women from Afghanistan peace efforts and decision-making will not only jeopordise the realisation of a true and sustainable peace, but blatantly disregard women’s rights to define their own future. We fear hard-won gains in women’s rights could be reversed”, said Ashish Damle, Oxfam’s Country Director in Afghanistan.

“Continued exclusion of women from Afghanistan peace efforts and decision-making will not only jeopordise the realisation of a true and sustainable peace, but blatantly disregard women’s rights to define their own future.”

During the meetings between the US government and the Taliban in Doha in February last year that set the stage for the start of the intra-Afghan peace process in September, not one woman was included in the conversation; and consequently women’s rights were not mentioned in the resulting deal struck a year ago.

“Despite seeing a small number of Afghan women represented in peace processes, Afghan women’s voices are largely marginilized. The intra-Afghan peace process, at all stages and levels, needs to do much better,” added Damle in September last year.

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Biden defiantly defends Afghanistan exit, makes ‘no apologies’

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(Last Updated On: January 20, 2022)

U.S. President Joe Biden on Wednesday firmly defended the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan and said he makes no apologies.

Addressing a press conference, Biden said: “I make no apologies for what I did.”

His administration drew criticism for the way troops were withdrawn and the sudden collapse of the previous government.

Biden suggested Wednesday there was nothing else that could have been done to bolster Afghan allies.

“Raise your hand if you think anyone was going to be able to unify Afghanistan under one single government,” he said.

“It’s been the graveyard of empires for a solid reason. It is not susceptible to unity.”

He also suggested it was not the responsibility of the U.S. to fix Afghanistan’s challenges, The Week reported.

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Pakistan played major role in peace, stability of Afghanistan: Arif Alvi

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(Last Updated On: January 20, 2022)

Pakistan’s President Arif Alvi has said that Pakistan played a major role in the peace and stability in Afghanistan and that Islamabad made sure Kabul was not isolated.

Alvi said in a media interview, that during the recent Economic Cooperation Organisation (ECO) summit he told its members that Pakistan saved Afghanistan from being isolated.

He also stated that during the extraordinary meeting of the foreign ministers of OIC in Islamabad, Pakistan, in December, he portrayed the actual picture of the war-torn country.

He also said the world has recognized Prime Minister Imran Khan’s initiatives.

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ILO estimates underscore Afghanistan employment crisis

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(Last Updated On: January 20, 2022)

Job losses in Afghanistan following the change in administration in August 2021 totaled more than half a million in the third quarter and may reach 900,000 by mid-2022, according to new estimates released by the International Labour Organization (ILO).

According to the ILO, the estimated 14% loss by mid-2022 reflects workers pushed out of employment due to the change in administration and ensuing economic crisis as well as restrictions on women’s participation in the workplace.

The total number of hours worked in the Afghan economy is estimated to have dropped by 13% in the third quarter of 2021 compared to a hypothetical scenario with no change in administration.

The ILO said key sectors have been devastated since the collapse of the former government including agriculture, the civil service and the construction industry which have all seen large-scale job losses or workers go unpaid.

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