Women Between Peace and War: Afghanistan

Tracing the Crisis Of the Family In a Country Under Siege


Women and girls are the cornerstone to rebuilding peace in Afghanistan.


The eroding effects of gender inequality, poverty, and lack of access to healthcare and education, however, have become the abhorrent and seemingly impermeable mainstays in many women’s lives.


Fortifying the autonomy of Afghan women in the form of cultural, legal and political equality cannot be relegated to only quelling the ongoing conflict and violence. Recognizing women and girls as viable (and necessary) strategists and catalysts for change are the rudimentary steps to visible transformation.


To effect this transformation, a series of intertwining relationships need to be understood, and a set of community initiatives installed. As a result, women and girls will be able to build (and sustain) peaceful lives for the people in their community.


Establishing Afghan women as community actors lies in empowering them as political leaders. Only then can a shared vision of  harmony, balance, and freedom ensue.


Investment in women is an investment in peace.


Women Between Peace and War has been designed as an international awareness campaign that works to ensure that the voices of women and girls are not lost in the ongoing international military and political engagement in Afghanistan. Launched with a digital, web-based, interactive exhibition, the project will ultimately also take the form of an tabloid-sized magazine containing photographs and text. The magazine will be exhibited (the pages are removable, so that each image can be displayed) around the world.


Women Between Peace and War is generously supported in part by SAPPI, Ideas that Matter and UNWOMEN.


The current government of Afghanistan is engaged in major military actions to gain control over Taliban-influenced areas and this fighting often leaves little political, budgetary, or humanitarian support for women and girls. Even worse, while there have been major institutional changes within Afghanistan to allow the voices of women to be part of national rebuilding, the reality for women in most communities is quite different, as indicated by these statistics:


  • One woman dies every 29 minutes in childbirth
  • The average life expectancy for a woman is 44 years
  • The approximate literacy rate for women stands at 15.8%
  • 70 to 80% of women are forced into marriages
  • 57% of girls are married before the legal age of 16


As the government involved in supporting the post-Taliban Afghanistan government works to achieve military peace and political stability, it is essential that women, long left out of these processes, get involved. But because the primary goal of regional governments is the immediate military crises, it is predictable that the first group to be forgotten when priorities are being set are those least in power. As is often the case, this group is female. If women—who comprise at least half of the population of the region—are not effectively involved in societal change, there can be no hope for a lasting and shared peace.