UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet
As we mark International Women’s Day this week, I am speaking from Kabul, Afghanistan.
The women of this country are often portrayed in the international fora and media as victims. In fact, Afghan women have – in the face of war, extreme poverty and unspeakable violence and discrimination – been working tirelessly to protect and provide for their families and communities. They have been threatened and attacked for speaking up, and denied and excluded from positions of power and decision-making, but this has not stopped them from advocating courageously for their rights and creating networks of support. They are not passive bystanders.
For this beautiful country to finally find peace and progress, Afghan women should be active agents for change and be given the space to lead peacebuilding, humanitarian and development processes.
Girls should be able to go to school and university and be empowered to contribute robustly to the future of their country. Women should be visibly represented in the police force, in courts of law, in government and in the private sector – indeed in every sphere of civic and public life.
Women have the equal right to demonstrate peacefully without fear of reprisal, to speak openly about the problems in society, and to have a genuine, meaningful seat at the table to craft solutions that reflect and respond also to their realities and demands. Solutions that really work.
Violence against women and girls – in public and private spheres - should never be tolerated, should be condemned and perpetrators brought to justice.
Here in Kabul, I am listening to women share their experiences and those of their sisters, and I am speaking to the de facto authorities about the urgent, critical need to make progress towards the realization of women and girls’ fundamental human rights and to bring to an end the many serious human rights violations to which women and girls are being subjected.
I have served my home country, Chile, as President, as Minister of Defence and as Minister of Health. I speak from experience when I say: sustainable peace and economic development and realisation of the rights of all people – to healthcare, to education, to justice, and more – requires the inclusion and empowerment of women and girls - half the population.
I stand with women all around the world – and I stand with the women and girls of Afghanistan, today and every day.