In-depth: Women's Empowerment

Women's Empowerment

Women continue to be on the margins in terms of access to education, health and employment  which has restricted their participation in economic activities. The National Risks and Vulnerability Assessment (NRVA) of 2007/8 confirmed that a consistent pattern of relative deprivation for women exists across almost all dimensions of individual and social development. Moreover, it underpins that there are large gender gaps which have an adverse impact on women’s economic activities.

With the predominance of patriarchal social values, it is not a coincidence that Afghanistan has one of the highest incidences of gender-based violence, globally. Women and girls face a dual battle of being victims of a perpetual wave of domestic violence that spans their entire life with different manifestations of violence from physical and sexual abuse to psychological degradation and on the other hand not being able to access appropriate mechanisms for redress and justice.

This has been exacerbated by the erosion of local livelihoods, the criminalization of the economy and insecurity at the hands of armed groups which have seamlessly contributed to produce extreme forms of female vulnerability.

Women's Empowerment and Development

Over the past decade Afghan women have taken up more leadership roles in government and communities. Laws have been passed in support of their rights. More girls are enrolled in schools than a decade ago, and more women are working in sectors such as health or security.

But the average Afghan woman can still only expect to live 44 years, and less than 15% are literate. Violence against women is also widespread and child marriage, giving away girls for dispute resolution, forced isolation in the home, exchange marriage and “honour” killings cause suffering, humiliation and marginalization for millions of Afghan women and girls.

Through its Gender Equality Program (GEP), UNDP is supporting the Government to assist women to take-up leadership roles. Women are supported and trained to take part in decision-making processes and leadership roles, for example, in community development committees, in sub-national and national governance roles, and in the police force.

UNDP is also supporting the government and civil society to extend justice and legal aid to more women. It has helped set up a Women’s Policy Development Center at the Ministry of Women’s Affairs to ensure all relevant ministries devise and implement strategies that have into consideration the needs of women.

Through this program some 1,600 religious leaders have also been trained in different provinces on women’s rights to participate in public and economic life.