WOMANKIND Worldwide: Afghan women and girls left to face ever increasing levels of violence Print E-mail

Press Release on October 27th 2006 [Scroll down to read media coverage]

Don’t forget the women of Afghanistan

Women and girls in Afghanistan have been woefully let down and left to face ever increasing levels of violence. This is the central message of a new report, ‘Taking Stock: Afghan Women and Girls Five Years On’ produced by WOMANKIND Worldwide to be launched on October 31st, the sixth anniversary of UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security.

WOMANKIND Worldwide is marking the anniversary with a special event at the House of Commons showing exclusive footage filmed only three weeks ago in Afghanistan of women speaking about their lives five years after the fall of the Taliban

‘The International Community needs do much more to protect and empower the women and girls of Afghanistan. Unless the rights that women and girls in Afghanistan have on paper are made reality it cannot be said that the status of Afghan women has changed significantly in the last five years’. says Maggie Baxter, Chief Executive of WOMANKIND Worldwide.

In 2001, a window of opportunity opened for the international community to turn Afghanistan around and enable foundations to be laid for a lasting peace in this country which had endured nearly a quarter century of violent conflict. ‘Taking Stock: Afghan Women and Girls Five Years On’ draws together a wide range of research and anecdotal evidence collected from national and international sources. The film brings alive the disturbing facts and figures in the report. This groundbreaking documentary provides a voice to women from all walks of life, as they tell their stories of discrimination, violence and fear.

“It is imperative that the media, donor governments, international organisations and the Afghan government acknowledge the lack of progress in the domain of women’s rights and immediately take action in key areas of education, the legal system, security services, healthcare, and livelihoods to transform paper rights to rights in practice. Let us not forget the women of Afghanistan.” continues Maggie Baxter.

Media Information

1.    WOMANKIND Worldwide will be holding an event entitled, The situation of Women and Girls in Afghanistan, at the Houses of Parliament (main entrance) on October 31st 2006 3.30-5.30. The event will be chaired by Joan Ruddock MP.  Afifa Nazir, Director of the Afghan Women’s Network and Maggie Baxter, Chief Executive of WOMANKIND Worldwide will present the report, Taking Stock: Afghan Women and Girls Five Years on. The new documentary, Tradition, War and Freedom will also be shown (thirteen minutes).

If you are interested in attending the event on October 31st 2006 please contact Kathryn Lockett tel 0207 549 0360

2.    Press Enquiries to Louise Finnis 020 549 0360

3.    Copies of the report, ‘Taking Stock: Afghan Women and Girls Five Years On’ are available on request and will be distributed at the event (paper and electronic copies available). Embargoed until midnight October 30th 2006. Please contact Louise Finnis

4.    Copies of the DVD, Tradition, War and Freedom produced by Zarghona Rassa of the British-Afghan Women’s Society, are limited but audio or film footage from the dvd could be made available to accompany interviews on the day. Embargoed until midnight October 30th 2006.  Please contact Louise Finnis

5.    WOMANKIND Staff, the film producer Zarghona Rassa and speaker Afifa Nazir, Director of the Afghan Women’s Network, will be available for interviews on October 31st 2006. Please contact Louise Finnis.

Background Information

1. WOMANKIND Worldwide is a UK charity which works in the UK and developing countries around the world to improve women’s lives and promote women’s rights.  For more information, see www.womankind.org.uk. 
2. WOMANKIND Worldwide’s work in Afghanistan:

WOMANKIND Worldwide has been working on women’s issues in Afghanistan since 2003, following the events of September 11th 2001, the subsequent war in Afghanistan and a sense of the urgent need to address women’s human rights at the first stage of the reconstruction process. 

We currently provide technical and financial support to three partner organisations in the country including the Afghan Women’s Network, (this Network has over 94 national organisations and over 3000 individual members making it the largest women’s rights organisations in Afghanistan), the Afghan Women’s Resource Centre (AWRC) and the Afghan Women’s Educational Centre (AWEC). 

We focus on promoting women’s equal participation in governance, building awareness among civil society and policy makers of women’s human rights, as well as providing educational, health, community and psycho-social support to those women affected by violence and conflict. 
For more information, please see: http://www.womankind.org.uk/afghanistan.html

3. British – Afghan Women’s Society

The British - Afghan Women’s Society (BAWS) was first sat up in February 2001 as a self help group of afghan women volunteers and was initiated by Zarghona Rassa, present chair. We are still the only Afghan women’s organisation specifically targeting women and families who are described as hard to reach part of the society due to cultural barriers.
BAWS started its work in Pimlico at the in kind space provided by the Migrant Resource Centre by regular monthly meetings and networking social events, followed by a quarterly newsletter in two main afghan languages and also some English informative materials about the service such as health, education, immigration and other aspects of life in the UK.
Ms Zarghona Rassa: Chairperson of British Afghan Women’s Society
Contact tel: 0208 352 3496 / 07956 471 078
4. Relevant National and International Commitments of Afghanistan:
The UN Convention of the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), ratified by the Afghan government in 2003 requires state parties to take "all appropriate measures, including legislation, to ensure the full development and advancement of women, for the purpose of guaranteeing them the exercise and enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms on a basis of equality with men"(article 3).

In addition UN Security Council Resolution 1325, which the Afghanistan is obliged to implement, reaffirms the need to implement fully international humanitarian and human rights law that protects the rights of women and girls during and after conflicts.

The Afghan Constitution also states that ‘the citizens of Afghanistan – whether man or woman – have equal rights and duties before the law’.

5. UK National Action Plan on UN Security Council Resolution 1325:
The UK Government has launched an action plan setting out how the UK will implement UN Security Resolution 1325.  The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), Ministry of Defence (MOD), Department of International Development (DFID), and other Government departments are all equal stakeholders in the implementation of the plan which outlines a commitment to ensuring women's rights are central to peacekeeping and peacebuilding operations.  As such, the UK Government is committed to ensuring protection, empowerment and participation of women at every level within its strategy in Afghanistan.

Development House
56-64 Leonard House

Tel 0207 549 0360
Copies of the Report
Copies of the ‘Taking Stock: Afghan Women and Girls Five Years On’ report are available in paper and electronic format please contact

News Tuesday October 31 2006

No 'real change' for Afghan women

By Pam O'Toole

Millions of Afghan women still face discrimination, the report says

An international women's rights group says guarantees given to Afghan women after the fall of the Taleban in 2001 have not translated into real change.

Womankind Worldwide says millions of Afghan women and girls continue to face systematic discrimination and violence in their households and communities.

The report admits that there have been some legal, civil and constitutional gains for Afghan women.

But serious challenges remain and need to be addressed urgently, it states.

These include challenges to women's safety, realisation of civil and political rights and status.


Womankind Worldwide sent a film crew to Afghanistan to investigate the situation of women there.

They found a young Afghan woman crying in hospital who said she wanted to die. She was recovering after setting fire to herself.

Womankind Worldwide says there has been a dramatic rise in cases of self-immolation by Afghan women since 2003.

It believes many are the result of forced marriages, thought to account for about 60% to 80% of all Afghan marriages.

57% of girls are married before the legal marriage age of 16.

Domestic violence remains widespread.

At an Afghan women's shelter, a young woman told the film crew that she came to the shelter to forget life's troubles.

"I come here so I can ease the pain a little. When I am at home sometimes I feel as though someone is choking me," she told the film crew.

Womankind Worldwide says the Afghan authorities rarely investigate women's complaints of violent attacks.

Women reporting rape run the risk of being imprisoned for having sexual intercourse outside marriage.

Unfulfilled promises
Although women now hold more than 25% of the seats in the Afghan parliament, female politicians and activists often face intimidation or even violence.

Afghan women need international protection, the report says

"Women who are standing up to defend women's' rights are not being protected," says Brita Fernandes Schmidt of Womankind Worldwide.

"My message, really, to the international community is: you need to address specific security issues for women," she says.

"Women's rights activists are getting killed, women's NGO workers are getting killed, and that is not going to change unless some drastic action is taken," Ms Fernandes continues.

Womankind Worldwide says the international community needs to fulfil promises made after the fall of the Taleban to help protect Afghan women.

It says the international community should give women a greater voice in setting the aid and reconstruction agenda.

Until basic rights are granted to Afghan women in practice as well as on paper, the report says, it could not be said that the status of Afghan women had changed significantly in the past five years.
London -- Wednesday November 1 2006

Women's lives 'no better' in new Afghanistan

By Justin Huggler, Asia Correspondent

The lives of Afghanistan's women have changed little five years after the fall of the Taliban, according to a new report by a UK-based women's rights group.

Womankind Worldwide found violence against women is still endemic - and the number of women setting fire to themselves because they cannot bear their lives is rising dramatically.

The iconic images of women throwing off their burqas after the overthrow of the Taliban in 2001 were always a fiction. Except among a small elite in Kabul, the overwhelming majority of women in Afghanistan are still forced to cover their entire bodies and faces.

The report's researchers found that very little has changed. Between 60 and 80 per cent of all marriages in Afghanistan are forced. As many as 57 per cent of girls are married off below the age of 16, some as young as six. Because of the custom of paying a bride price, marriage is essentially a financial transaction, and girls a commodity.

The custom of baad, when girls and women are exchanged to settle debts and disputes, is still widely practised. The women are not treated as proper wives, but in effect are slave workers for their husbands.

Honour killing is also still widespread. Women are killed for dishonouring their families through "crimes" such as even being seen associating with a man. A family member kills the woman.

Even women who have been raped cannot report the crime because they risk being prosecuted for having sex outside marriage.

The Taliban were vilified for denying girls education, but even now only 19 per cent of Afghan schools are for girls and only 5 per cent of girls of secondary school age are enrolled.

And the West cannot blame the Taliban, as many of the abuses take place in the north and west, where the Taliban are not active.

In the north-east, where the Taliban never had control, a woman dies every 20 minutes in childbirth.