Afghan women abused, isolated, but hold key to peace

London—International concern about the rise of the Taliban and Islamic State (ISIS) in Afghanistan are sidelining women’s rights, to the detriment of the country’s prospects for peace and development, an international women’s charity said.
Speaking ahead of a meeting with British parliamentarians this week on the issue, Women for Women International (WfWI) said the Taliban had grown stronger despite military attempts to eliminate them, and a more rounded approach was needed.
The Islamist Taliban control or threaten around one third of Afghanistan, according to U.S. estimates. Some militants have shifted their allegiance to Islamic State, which has begun challenging Taliban units in pockets of the country.
“There’s a real concern that the focus on security is completely permeating all of our international development decisions and that’s a real danger,” said Brita Fernandez Schmidt, executive director of WfWI UK.
“I’m not arguing that we don’t have to look at security … but there is no security without development, and there is no development without security. They go hand in hand,” she said in an interview with the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
Key to the country’s peace and development is improving the lot of its poorest and most marginalised people – rural women – helping them to gain an income and become involved in settling local disputes, she added.
The Taliban spread their control in areas that are poor and lack government services, said WfWI’s country director for Afghanistan and Iraq, Mandana Hendessi.
“Often you find the growth in the Taliban insurgency is in areas where people are very poor and there is no welfare and no health provision, where people are desperate,” Hendessi said.
The Taliban pour money into welfare, police the area, and set up local judges to resolve disputes, she said.—Reuters

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