How well is gender equality being promoted in Afghanistan? This study, from the Afghanistan Research and Evaluation Unit, argues that gender mainstreaming, is not being substantively implemented in the Administration, although it is the government’s principal strategy for promoting gender equality. Mainstreaming is a valuable tool and could be more effectively executed. It is the responsibility of the Government of Afghanistan (GoA), and of its leaders in particular, to ensure that its written commitment to promote gender equality in the GoA Gender Mainstreaming Policy is supported by its activities and practices.
Members of the civil service see gender mainstreaming as a policy imported from outside the country and do not feel they have ownership of its implementation. The word “gender” does not translate into Dari or Pashto and is generally considered foreign terminology. However, this is characteristic of many other aspects of the statebuilding process in Afghanistan, and the lack of translation does not significantly obstruct the implementation of gender mainstreaming. This implementation could be further encouraged.
The Afghanistan National Development Strategy (ANDS) and the National Action Plan for the Women of Afghanistan (NAPWA) emphasise gender as a cross-cutting issue. However, technical factors limit the efficacy of existing mechanisms within ministries. Furthermore, institutional cultures of welfare expectations, patronage and perceptions of gendered hierarchies also affect the implementation of gender mainstreaming.
- Measures of positive discrimination currently employed in Afghanistan are not adequate to combat gender inequalities.
- Measures of institutional reform operate in parallel to existing institutional practices and so they are significantly limited in their efficacy.
- The unfocused prescriptions for social change in gender relations in policy documents detract from targeted, implementable strategies. Few suggestions deal with how gender-sensitive policies might be monitored.
- Interdepartmental mechanisms in ministries have the potential to be effective, provided that they have strong connections to senior policy makers within the ministry structure.
- It should not be assumed that attitudes of ministry staff towards gender equality are wholly negative. While a culture of male priority and dominance exists, there is a recognised need to emphasise women’s public roles.
To implement gender mainstreaming, more effectively, the Government of Afghanistan (GoA), individual line ministries and international actors should consider the following:
- Rather than basic positive discrimination to increase numbers of women, there needs to be a holistic approach in which all systems, policies, programmes and services are made gender sensitive.
- More needs to be done technically and structurally to encourage gender mainstreaming at the ministerial level. There must be better coordination among mechanisms (and among the international agencies that initiate them).
- The National Gender Mainstreaming Secretariat should be considered the one mechanism to which all agencies working on gender policy, national and international, could be effectively held accountable.
- Attempts to promote gender mainstreaming will need to be put forward within an Islamic framework, given that gender issues are considered by the majority of respondents to be inseparable from religious principles.
- The promotion of gender mainstreaming depends on fully-operational governmental institutions. Greater financial, technical and political commitment is needed to strengthen these institutions and build the capacity of staff.