I am grateful to the Government of Afghanistan, and particularly to Ms Dilbar Nazari, Minister of Women’s Affairs, and Ambassador Mahmoud Saikal, for the invitation to address you today.
I am delighted to co-host this side event with India. Afghanistan’s development depends heavily on good cooperation with its neighbours.
Afghanistan is facing many serious challenges. To overcome them, the Government and society need to listen to and include women.
We are encouraged by the Afghan Government’s commitment to ensure the full political, social and economic participation of Afghan women in national development.
New national plans for women, peace and security and for women’s economic empowerment have been developed.
Afghan ministries and government agencies at all levels are responsible for translating national gender plans into practical action and results.
Implementation is the tricky part and must be a budgetary priority for all of the relevant ministries.
Improved gender statistics and carefully defined milestones are also important for tracking progress.
Afghanistan has also made a major commitment to prosecuting violence against women and to reforming the justice and security sectors to better include and serve women.
Civil society and religious authorities play an important role in creating conditions for women’s empowerment. They are in a position to spur changes in social and cultural norms.
Norway will continue to be a long-term partner for Afghanistan in the promotion of gender equality. Women’s empowerment is one of the main priorities in our political dialogue, our development and security cooperation and our humanitarian support.
Under the leadership of Minister Nazari and the Ministry of Women’s Affairs, Afghanistan will hold a regional symposium on women’s empowerment in April in Mazar-e-Sharif. Norway is proud to be an organising partner together with UN Women. The meeting may serve as a model for symposia in other parts of the country.
This is a direct follow-up of the successful Kabul Symposium on Women’s Empowerment in May 2016, in which our Foreign Minister participated, and the Oslo Symposium before that. The participants at both of these emphasised the need to improve rural women’s knowledge of human rights, legal frameworks and national policies.
We can see a good example of how women’s representation in local government can make a difference in India, where UN Women and Norway are working with India to educate female representatives in rural areas, in cooperation with the panchayats, or local councils. It is striking that the number of drinking water projects in areas with women-led local councils is 62 % higher than in areas where the councils are led by men.
Another message from the Kabul Symposium was the Government’s commitment to consult women throughout the provinces of Afghanistan and to tailor policies to overcome the barriers they meet. This, too, is a main goal of the regional symposium.
More areas of the country have become insecure, and Afghan women suffer disproportionately. When armed groups encroach on or control an area, the opportunities for women to be active outside the home are often threatened.
Norway has increased its humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan. Access to insecure areas is a priority and a concern. As Foreign Minister Børge Brende said recently, women and girls in insecure areas have the same right to an education as their counterparts in Kabul.
Norway’s development assistance also targets insecure and rural areas. Integrated rural development with a focus on women is one of three priorities for our cooperation.
In addition, the Norwegian Afghanistan Committee focuses on teacher, and nurse and midwife training for women almost exclusively from areas controlled by armed groups.
We must continue to press ahead with our joint efforts so that women can fulfil their potential and contribute to national development.
Today’s discussion can help us identify ways of working together in a coherent and consistent manner to achieve solid and durable results.