Women Must Be Part of the Afghan Peace Process

Stephenie Foster
4 min readApr 4, 2019

Afghan women are leaders. They are central to building strong Afghan institutions and legal frameworks and creating opportunity for all Afghans. The current U.S. peace envoy, Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, would be well served to call on them, and their expertise, as he seeks an elusive peace in Afghanistan.

As part of any dialogue and debate about the future of Afghanistan, it is critical that the Afghan government, and Afghan citizens, be genuinely engaged in the process. This is not a process that should be reserved for the United States, some Afghan politicians, and the Taliban.

Broadly speaking, engaging Afghans means ensuring that there is genuine consultation with those who comprise today’s Afghanistan: men and women, young and old, people from every ethnic group and sector of society. Afghan power brokers have a role to play but they aren’t the only voice that must be heard. The Taliban do not represent the majority of Afghans, and their efforts to be seen as modern, and moderate, are questionable. For example, reports are that in districts controlled by the Taliban today, girls’ secondary schools are not operating and women cannot go to markets on their own.

Afghan women have made tremendous strides based on international investments and their own tenacity and agency. They are not victims, but leaders and change makers. They have been at the forefront of building a strong economy and a broad-based education system, and promoting the leadership of women across sectors.

It is critical that Afghan women are fully engaged and that their experience, talent, and expertise is brought to bear on all parts of the Afghan peace processes. To date, Afghan women have been generally excluded from the current talks. In a hopeful sign, earlier this week in Kabul, Khalilzad met with representatives of the Afghan Women’s Network, a coalition of 125 women’s rights organizations. At that meeting, he said that “women must be at the table during all negotiations about peace and Afghanistan’s future.” This is in line with the mandate of the Women, Peace and Security Act of 2017 which recognizes, as a matter of U.S.policy, the importance of women’s roles in peace negotiations and conflict resolution.

Stephenie Foster

Partner, Smash Strategies. Recovering diplomat. Work in the US and globally so that women & girls have every opportunity.