Ladies and Gentlemen, Distinguished Colleagues, Dear Friends,
It is my pleasure to welcome you all to this Colloquium on “Perspectives of Afghan Women: 2014 and Beyond”.
I would first of all like to thank the VIC and in particular, the UNODC as well as ACUNS for helping our mission to make this event possible. I appreciate your interest in Afghanistan and in particular your interest in the situation of women in Afghanistan.
The issue of women’s rights and gender mainstreaming is gravely important and one that is close to our heart. Despite Afghanistan’s recent history of decades-long conflict where the women of Afghanistan became the prime victim and regardless of and remaining challenges among them the on-going violence against women, we are in the process of transitioning from three decades of war and transforming into a stable and democratic society.
The post-Taliban Afghanistan, thanks to the commitment of its people and the continued support by our partners in the International community, has made excellent achievements, including on the empowerment of women. The Government of Afghanistan has taken specific steps at the national, regional and international level to meet its obligations to improve the situation of women. We have the most progressive Constitution in the history of Afghanistan, which provides equal rights and duties before the law for both men and women.
Today, Afghan women participate in all levels of society; as members of the executive, judiciary and legislative branches in the Government, as civil society and NGO activists, and as a whole they are actively taking part in the on-going Transition process of Afghanistan to the Transformation Decade.
As in the past, when I have discussed women’s empowerment I have always emphasised that without the active participation of women, who constitute over 50% of the Afghan population, we will be unable to realise our visions for a democratic, stable and peaceful Afghanistan.
It is therefore my privilege to introduce today our two distinguished panelists Ms. Farkhunda Zahra Naderi and Ms. Mahbouba Seraj.
Ms Seraj was born in Kabul, Afghanistan, and graduated from Malalai High School for girls and Kabul University. After 26 years in exile, she returned to Afghanistan at the end of 2003, and has since been working with the women and children of Afghanistan. She is the creator of a radio program for women called “Our Beloved Afghanistan by Mahbouba Seraj” which has been broadcast all over Afghanistan. She is a member of the Afghan Women Coalition Against Corruption and is also Executive Board Member and Chair of the Afghan Women Network or AWN, the biggest women network in Afghanistan.
Ms. Seraj has been a tireless advocate for women’s rights, pushing for women’s participation in the Peace Jirga, as well as in the High Peace Council. She and other women’s rights advocates were responsible in raising women participation at the 2011 Bonn Conference and 2012 Tokyo Conference on Afghanistan.
Ms. Naderi commenced her primary and secondary education in Kabul and Baghlan provinces, and completed her baccalaureate in 2001 in Harrow female High School in the United Kingdom. In 2004, she joined the Law Faculty at the Westminster International University in Tashkent and from 2004 to 2005 she was the representative to the faculty.
Ms. Naderi is currently a member of the Wolesi Jirga (Lower House) of Afghanistan’s Parliament, representing Kabul Province. She has also been a member of the Commission on Women’s Affairs, Human rights and Civil Society and has participated in the IPU Assembly in Geneva, where she was elected the President of the Human Rights & Democracy Committee. She is also the only female to have participated in three consecutive Chantilly Conferences, organized by the Foundation for Strategic Research
Please join me in giving Ms Naderi and Ms Seraj a warm welcome.
Thank you, Mr Moderator.