No peace without women: Afghan activists on why women’s representation matters
The Taliban takeover of Kabul on 15 August 2021 erased years of hard-won progress towards national peace and security. In the year since, the regime has systematically erased women from Afghan society, too: mandating face coverings in public, excluding women from most jobs, banning girls from high school and dismantling all institutions that protected and promoted the rights of women and girls. And yet, in the face of these innumerable human rights violations, Afghan women continue to resist and to work towards lasting peace and security for their country.
Fawzia Koofi, Habiba Sarabi and Maryam Rayed have devoted their careers to building peace in their home country. Fawzia and Habiba represented the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan during peace talks with the Taliban in 2020—two of four women to take part in the breakthrough negotiations. Maryam headed a department in the State Ministry of Peace. All three are now in exile.
Their first-hand accounts showcase the importance of women’s representation and leadership in peace and security processes—and what their absence from these processes can mean for a country.
The first girl in her family to go to school, Fawzia Koofi went on to become the first woman Deputy Speaker of the Parliament of Afghanistan, as well as one of the four women negotiators sitting face-to-face with the Taliban to negotiate the country’s future in 2020. A life-long fighter for democracy and the rights of Afghan women and girls, Fawzia is now in exile.
Habiba Sarabi is a pharmacist by profession and a politician by choice. After serving as Afghanistan’s Minister of Women’s Affairs, she became the country’s first woman governor. During peace negotiations with the Taliban, Habiba was appointed Deputy Chair for the High Peace Council—alongside four other women negotiators. Now in exile, she is focused on motivating the younger generation to finish the fight.
Born during the Taliban’s first rule, Maryam Rayed is a human rights advocate who once served as the Deputy-Director for Foreign Affairs and Human Rights at the State Ministry for Peace in Afghanistan. Now in exile, Maryam is a Fulbright Scholar studying governance and democracy at Georgetown University.