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SIGAR report shows shortcomings in some US programs for Afghan women

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(Last Updated On: February 18, 2021)

Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) stated in a report released Thursday that despite hundreds of millions of dollars spent on efforts to support Afghan women and girls since 2002, some programs were designed on assumptions that proved to be ill-suited to the Afghan context.

In the Lessons Learned report, SIGAR head John F. Sopko stated that the shortcomings were found in an examination of 24 US gender-related programs.

“Some programs were designed based on assumptions that proved to be
ill-suited to the Afghan context and the challenges that women and girls faced.

“We found that establishing a correlation between program activities and related outcomes was not always possible, and in many cases, insufficient monitoring and evaluation of program activities made it impossible to assess the programs’ actual impacts,” he said.

The report stated that it is critical that US officials working on or in Afghanistan develop a more nuanced understanding of gender roles and relations in the Afghan cultural context – and work to ensure that US policies and programs are responsive to this context.

“US agencies also need to assess how to support women and girls without provoking backlash that might endanger them or stall progress,” read the report.

Sopko however pointed out that despite some shortcomings the importance of US backing for Afghan women’s rights should not be underestimated.

Almost $800 million has been spent in direct support of Afghan women and enormous progress has been made since 2002, including in the fields of health care and education.

The report stated meanwhile that “US and international diplomatic pressure can be instrumental in advancing women’s legal rights and participation in public life – in politics, government, media, and civil society.”

The report also noted that educating Afghan men and boys about gender equality issues and working with them as partners and advocates are critical to advancing women’s status and rights in Afghanistan.

“It is crucial that more women assume leadership positions in a wider range of Afghan government ministries, including at the cabinet level,” read the report.

However, the report stated that “US efforts to improve the lives of women and girls will continue to be constrained by significant barriers, especially insecurity and harmful sociocultural norms.”

In its recommendations to the US Congress, SIGAR suggested the current funding levels for Afghan women to improve access to health and education need to be preserved but that it be conditions-based so the Afghan government demonstrates its commitment to protecting the rights of women.

Among other recommendations made, SIGAR said the US Department of Defense also needs to spend between $10 million and $20 million a year to recruit and retain women in the military forces.

Among a list of other recommendations, SIGAR stated the US also needs to continue to support protective shelters for women and girls fleeing abuse, and increase mentorship and support to the Afghan National Police’s Family Response Units.

SIGAR also listed a host of recommendations for USAID with regards to protecting and empowering Afghan women. SIGAR stated the USAID administrator should ensure that job skills training for Afghan women are designed to be practical and responsive to market needs, and that the agency assesses the degree to which training expands participants’ knowledge and skills.

Reacting to this report, Chargé d’Affaires Ross Wilson said on Tuesday that the US’s commitment to Afghan women is steadfast.

“From 2002 to 2020, we invested over $785mln to improve outcomes in health, education, political/economic participation & access to justice for Afghan women,” he said.

“But our work was not without lessons learned – nor is it complete. Women worldwide are disproportionately affected by poverty, insecurity & harassment. Afghan women face formidable cultural, social, political & security barriers in exercising their constitutional rights,” he tweeted.

“Afghan men must also be champions of this critical issue; their future depends on full female representation so that Afghanistan might advance the gains and accelerate towards a more prosperous future,” Wilson stated.

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Suicide car bomb in Somali capital kills at least 8: official

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(Last Updated On: September 25, 2021)

A suicide car bomb killed at least eight people in the Somali capital on Saturday near the president’s palace, police said.

Al Qaeda-linked al Shabaab said it was behind the attack, which targeted a convoy going into the palace.

Police spokesperson Abdifatah Aden Hassan told reporters at the scene of the blast that casualties could be higher, since some of the dead and wounded had been taken away by their relatives.

Mohamed Ibrahim Moalimuu, the government spokesperson, said among those killed was Hibaq Abukar, an advisor of women and human rights affairs in Prime Minister Mohammed Hussein Roble’s office.

It was not immediately clear if Abukar was in the convoy or if she just happened to be close by when the blast happened.

Al Shabaab wants to overthrow the government and impose its own strict interpretation of Islamic law. The group frequently carries out such bombings.

A Reuters witness at the scene of the attack reported seeing seven cars and three rickshaws destroyed by the blast, and the whole junction covered in blood.

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China welcomes Huawei executive home, but silent on freed Canadians

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(Last Updated On: September 25, 2021)

Chinese state media welcomed telecoms giant Huawei’s chief financial officer, Meng Wanzhou, back to the “motherland” on Saturday, after more than 1,000 days under house arrest in Canada, on what they called unfounded charges of bank fraud.

But they have kept silent about Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, the two Canadians released from Chinese custody in an apparent act of reciprocation by Beijing.

Chinese state broadcaster CCTV carried a statement by the Huawei executive, written as her plane flew over the North Pole, avoiding U.S. airspace.

Her eyes were “blurring with tears” as she approached “the embrace of the great motherland”, Meng said. “Without a strong motherland, I wouldn’t have the freedom I have today.”

Meng was arrested in December 2018 in Vancouver after a New York court issued an arrest warrant, saying she tried to cover up attempts by Huawei-linked companies to sell equipment to Iran in breach of U.S. sanctions.

After more than two years of legal wrangling, she was finally allowed to leave Canada and fly back to China on Friday, after securing a deal with U.S. prosecutors.

Huawei, founded by Meng’s father Ren Zhengfei, said in a statement that it “looked forward to seeing Ms. Meng returning home safely to be reunited with her family.” It said it would continue to defend itself against U.S. charges.

Canadians Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, detained by Chinese authorities just days after Meng’s arrest, were released a few hours later, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said.

State news agency Xinhua formally acknowledged the end of Meng’s house arrest on Saturday, attributing her release to the “unremitting efforts of the Chinese government”.

Hu Xijin, editor in chief of the Global Times tabloid backed by the ruling Communist Party, wrote on Twitter that “international relations have fallen into chaos” as a result of Meng’s “painful three years”.

He added, “No arbitrary detention of Chinese people is allowed.”

However, neither Hu nor other media have mentioned the release of Spavor and Kovrig, and reactions on China’s Twitter-like Weibo social media platform have been few and far between.

The foreign ministry has not commented publicly.

China has previously denied engaging in “hostage diplomacy”, insisting that the arrest and detention of the two Canadians was not tied in any way to the extradition proceedings against Meng.

Spavor was accused of supplying photographs of military equipment to Kovrig and sentenced to 11 years in jail in August. Kovrig had still been awaiting sentencing.

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Four kidnappers killed by IEA forces in hostage drama

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(Last Updated On: September 25, 2021)

Herat security officials said four kidnappers had been killed in a clash with Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA) forces on Saturday morning.

The incident happened during an operation to rescue a local man and his son who had been taken hostage by the kidnappers.

According to officials, the kidnapping happened in PD12 in Herat city and the hostages were then taken to PD14.

The officials did not give any further details.

IEA officials said both father and son were rescued.

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