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First Lady of Afghanistan Rula Ghani speaks onstage at Tina Brown's 7th Annual Women In The World Summit at Lincoln Center on April 6, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Jemal Countess/Getty Images)

‘The little stone’

Will U.S.-Taliban peace talks sacrifice women? Not if Afghanistan’s first lady can help it

By WITW Staff on April 16, 2019

Afghanistan’s First Lady Rula Ghani is tirelessly leading efforts to bring women into ongoing peace talks between the United States and the Taliban — even as her husband’s government finds itself sidelined from the process.

Women across Afghanistan have expressed fears that their rights and safety will be put at risk if the Taliban is allowed to reassert itself. Ghani says her goal is to prevent this from happening by acting as “the little stone you put under the urn so it will not fall” in the peace talks.

To date, U.S.-Taliban peace talks have been an all-male process, including a recent high-level meeting in Kabul to which not a single female delegate was invited. Ghani, meanwhile, has been conducting surveys of Afghan women across 34 provinces — including those under Taliban control. In the southern Helmand province, women said that only by providing them with education could the region see lasting peace. In the more socially conservative Konar, women in niqabs demanded to be involved in the peace process, noting that “it is a woman who has raised the Talib and a woman who has raised the soldier.”

Ghani’s efforts were thrown into relief at an all-women conference in February, where 3,500 Afghan women gathered for a loya jirga — a traditional leadership conference that normally is attended solely by men. The historic event nonetheless went unacknowledged by both the U.S. government and the Taliban.

“We were not seeing any kind of real work being done to understand what women really want,” Ghani told the Washington Post. “What are their thoughts? What are their priorities? What do they see as obstacles to peace?”

Read the full story at the Washington Post.


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