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November 21, 2001
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UN official seeks more role for
Afghan women

Dharam Shourie in the United Nations

The women in Afghanistan should be made "full partners" while deciding the future of the war-torn country, a top United Nations official said on Tuesday.

"Our interest is to ensure that this concern will be harnessed towards convincing the leaders of Afghan factions of the benefits of including women as full partners in the decision-making process," UN Special Adviser on Gender Issues Angela King said.

Lamenting the pitiable condition of women in Afghanistan, King said there were an estimated 50,000 widows in Kabul, while every 15 minutes a woman in the country died in childbirth.

She recalled that in 1977, some 15 per cent of all legislators in Afghanistan were women.

Up to the early 1990s, women comprised 70 per cent of all teachers, 50 per cent of government workers and 40 per cent of medical doctors.

"Women were professors, lawyers and judges," she said. "They were journalists, writers and poets."

Summing up the situation in the country, King said: "We are talking about a country of approximately 22.7 million, which after three years of severe drought, 22 years of war and devastation and five years under the Taleban authorities, is one of the poorest in the world."

King sought decisive action to respond to these alarming trends.

She urged members of the international community to insist on women's participation in Afghanistan's future development.

"The UN can continue to include a gender perspective in all strategic recovery plans and programmes, devise convincing cases for why women will contribute to stabilisation and what happens when they don't," she said.

PTI

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