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Habiba Sarabi the lone woman in a room full of men at Moscow meeting

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(Last Updated On: March 19, 2021)

Despite repeated pledges by the Afghan government and the country’s politicians to include women in decision making processes, Thursday’s grand meeting in Moscow on the peace process indicated otherwise.

As delegates filed into the meeting room – it quickly became clear that among the dozens present, all were men – except for one.

Habiba Sarabi was the only female among the Afghan delegates – which included the Afghan government, the Taliban and individuals from Afghanistan who were sent invitations by Moscow.

Sarabi was the lone female voice in a room full of men.

In a tweet after the meeting, Sarabi made her feelings on the matter clear and said in reference to the Turkey meeting in April: “I hope I will not be the only woman at the next summit.”

Coming out in support of Sarabi was Nader Nadery, a fellow Afghan Republic peace talks team member, who said after the meeting that Sarabi “said in her remarks to the room full of men: why I should be the only woman in the room? We have not been part of the war, we can certainly contribute to peace. 51% of people should not be ignored. Hope hosts take note of it for the future.”

Nadery also stated that he hopes an “equal number of women on tables should become the norm. Proud of Sarabi Habiba.”

Shaharzad Akbar, chairperson of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) also questioned this imbalance.

She said in a tweet: “Based on media reports, some of the invitations for Moscow event were delivered to specific individuals. Why didn’t Russia include a single Afghan woman on that list? There was also an invitation to Afghan government presumably, why wasn’t that invitation utilized to send four women negotiators?”

Even Ashraf Haidari, Afghanistan’s Ambassador to Sri Lanka, weighed in. He said in a tweet: “The presence of articulate women slowly diminished in peace meetings. Their substantive input and leadership in any peace engagement is naturally needed, as they speak for two thirds of any population, including children they nurture. Moscow wouldn’t care. Every Afghan must!”

This sentiment was shared by many including Human Rights Watch interim co-director, women’s rights division Heather Barr who quite bluntly said: “So easy for all the men – of varying, but not too varying, levels of misogyny – to snuggle up and make friends when they only let one woman in the room.”

Even Lyse Doucet, the BBC’s Chief International Correspondent commented. She said: “Strong voices of Afghan women. Is that why they don’t want more at the table?”

Soon after the start of the intra-Afghan talks in Doha, in September last year, Oxfam, Cordaid and InclusivePeace released a report stating that nearly 80 percent of Afghanistan’s peace tables, since 2005, have excluded women.

At the time, the report stated that without the meaningful participation of women, any sustainable peace efforts are at risk of failure.

The joint report Because She Matters, highlighted tangible ways to ensure women’s propositions and concerns are reflected in the negotiation process. It also showed that peace is more attainable when women have a place at the table, as peace agreements are 35 percent more likely to last beyond fifteen years when women effectively engage in them.

“Continued exclusion of women from Afghanistan peace efforts and decision-making will not only jeopordise the realisation of a true and sustainable peace, but blatantly disregard women’s rights to define their own future. We fear hard-won gains in women’s rights could be reversed”, said Ashish Damle, Oxfam’s Country Director in Afghanistan.

“Continued exclusion of women from Afghanistan peace efforts and decision-making will not only jeopordise the realisation of a true and sustainable peace, but blatantly disregard women’s rights to define their own future.”

During the meetings between the US government and the Taliban in Doha in February last year that set the stage for the start of the intra-Afghan peace process in September, not one woman was included in the conversation; and consequently women’s rights were not mentioned in the resulting deal struck a year ago.

“Despite seeing a small number of Afghan women represented in peace processes, Afghan women’s voices are largely marginilized. The intra-Afghan peace process, at all stages and levels, needs to do much better,” added Damle in September last year.

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Earthquake victims in Gayan district still in need of food and shelter

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(Last Updated On: June 25, 2022)

Hundreds of survivors of this week’s earthquake, who lost family members and their homes, are still in desperate need of help.

Sayed Bakhta, one of the survivors said that he has lost four family members and two others are hospitalized, adding that survivors are dealing with a lack of food and no shelter.

“We have no shelter here now, we don’t have food, all the victims are sitting outside without having shelter,” he said.

A number of Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan’s (IEA) officials who have visited Gayan district of Paktika say that almost 90 percent of residential areas have been destroyed.

“Almost 90 percent of residences are destroyed; only a few them are suitable for living, most of them are uninhabitable,” said Qalandar Ebad, acting minister of public health.

In the meantime, rugged roads have hampered relief efforts as Gayan victims grapple with a humanitarian crisis, but military helicopter try to deliver aid to the victims.

“According to the order of the Prime Minister, a meeting was held and according to that meeting, the ministries and donor organizations were instructed to come to the earthquake site as soon as possible and use all their facilities to save the people,” said Sharafuddin Muslim, deputy Minister of State for Disaster Management.

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121 children among those killed in Afghanistan earthquake: UNICEF

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(Last Updated On: June 25, 2022)

The United Nations children’s agency said on Friday 121 of those who were killed in the 6.1-magnitude earthquake in Afghanistan this week were children.

Mohamed Ayoya, UNICEF Representative to Afghanistan, said as of late Thursday night, at least 1,036 people were reported killed and more than 1,643 reported injured.

The toll included 121 deaths and 67 injuries among the children, according to the official.

He said that Bermal district in Paktika province has the highest number of casualties and that several thousand homes were destroyed or damaged.

“Children and adolescents are extremely vulnerable and at high-risk of family separation, emotional and psychological distress, abuse and exploitation, and other forms of violence,” Ayoya said.

“UNICEF, in coordination with UN agencies, partners, and the de facto authorities (led by the Ministry of Defence) is rapidly preparing a multi-sectoral response covering health, WASH, child protection, nutrition, education, social mobilization, and including a cash component,” Ayoya said.
“UNICEF will be conducting a rapid market assessment in the affected areas in the upcoming days. The assessment will inform the feasibility and appropriateness of cash as a response to support early recovery. UNICEF has already trained partners for beneficiary registration on the ground.”

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Pakistan dispatches second consignment of earthquake relief

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(Last Updated On: June 25, 2022)

Pakistan’s Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Friday dispatched eight trucks loaded with relief goods for earthquake victims in Afghanistan.

According to a statement issued by the Pakistan government, the consignment, arranged by the National Disaster Management Authority, has been handed over to Afghan authorities.

The consignment consists of family tents, tarpaulins, blankets and emergency medicines.

“Pakistan is committed to continue supply of relief goods to Afghan brethren,” the statement read.

This comes after Pakistan sent in earthquake aid on Wednesday, just hours after the 6.1 magnitude earthquake hit Afghanistan’s eastern provinces, killing over 1,000 people and destroying thousands of houses.

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