Determining if Progress Will Prevail or Peril: The Role for Women in Defining Afghanistan’s Future

   •    April 3, 2014

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This article was originally published by The Fletcher Forum of World Affairs.

After twelve years in Afghanistan, U.S.-led coalition forces are drawing down their presence. Despite a mixed track record, they leave behind a reformed nation. More than eight million children are now in school, up from 900,000 in 2001. Maternal and infant mortality rates have decreased significantly, and average life expectancy has increased by sixteen years. Sixty percent of the population is within an hour’s walk of a health center. Women have exercised their rights to work, vote, be educated, and serve in political office.

Meanwhile, the question of how to sustain these gains remains unanswered, largely because no one knows the exact formula. Many experts have touted the need to advance the rule of law, maintain and expand infrastructure development, ensure democratic political processes, increase access to education, and nurture the civil service. In parallel, there are public conversations on how to secure the progress Afghan women have made, separate fora in which fate of Afghan women is debated and ultimately siloed as an issue distinct from the broader conversation on security and stabilization. Unless the two conversations become one—with Afghan women’s development and integration as a core component of strategies to achieve broader political, economic, and security objectives—the problem of how to secure Afghanistan’s socioeconomic, security and political gains made will elude solution.

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