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Afghanistan: Females

Volume 476: debated on Monday 19 May 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (1) what recent discussions he has had with the government of Afghanistan on the status of women in that country; (204323)

(2) what discussions he has had with the government of Afghanistan on tackling violence against women in that country.

We are aware of the difficult situation many women in Afghanistan still face. Our Embassy officials in Kabul regularly discuss women’s rights with members of the Afghan Government, non-governmental organisations and parliamentarians, highlighting their importance.

The Government work to enhance the status of women in three main ways: through policy engagement with the Afghan Government; through support for national programmes and services, which benefit women; and through bilateral programmes.

Despite the challenges, progress has been made. Over a third of children now in school are girls. We have committed over £35 million to support the Afghan government’s micro-finance programme, giving women in particular better access to finance. 27 per cent. of seats in the Lower House of the Afghan Parliament are now held by women—more than in the House of Commons, which is around 20 per cent.

Our major support is channelled through the Afghan government, since gender inequality is a deeply embedded and long-term problem which needs a strategic approach. We have worked, for example, with the government to ensure that gender equality is integrated into the Afghanistan National Development Strategy.

We are also giving £500,000 to support a five-year Women’s Empowerment programme (2005-10), implemented by the non-governmental organisation, Womankind. The programme focuses on promoting women’s equal participation in governance, building awareness of women’s rights among civil society and policy makers, and on providing educational, health, community and psycho-social support to women affected by violence and conflict.

We funded the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission, with £500,000, to implement its three-year Action Plan (2006-08). A large part of the Commission's work focuses on women’s rights, including documenting and tackling violence against women. In addition we have funded a non-governmental organisation, Global Rights, to produce a detailed report on domestic abuse in Afghanistan, due to be published shortly.