In April 2015, Amnesty International Australia wrapped up its two-year campaign to stand with the women and girls of Afghanistan.

We’d like to say a huge thanks to Amnesty supporter groups for being a critical part of our campaign for the rights of women and girls in Afghanistan. Together, we made sure the safety and advancement of women was high on the list of priorities of the new Afghan Government and of the Australian Government’s foreign policy.

A chapter closes

Our campaign culminated in the head of Amnesty’s global movement, Salil Shetty, and our Afghanistan researcher, Horia Mosadiq, personally handing over your calls for equal rights and protections for Afghan women.

Afghan women march during a protest calling for an end to violence against women in Afghanistan
Afghan women march during a protest calling for an end to violence against women in Afghanistan © AFP / SHAH MARAI
What We Did

Salil and Horia presented the 102,497 signatures from the Australian public to First Lady Rula Ghani. After stating that she would be displaying the signatures in her office “where everyone can see them”, First Lady Ghani reaffirmed her commitment to ending violence against women and asked that we give you this message:

“We are doing everything to support Afghan women and women human rights defenders and we are fighting for the same cause as you, though it may be different fronts and through different means.”

Earlier that day at an Amnesty-supported conference in Kabul for human rights activists in Afghanistan, the Afghan Chief Executive and Vice President both made specific commitments to women’s rights in front of a swathe of TV cameras.

Afterwards we wrote to Australia’s Foreign Minister Julie Bishop to inform her of Amnesty’s meetings in Afghanistan. We urged Australia to encourage the Afghan government to protect women’s human rights.

Campaign Highlights

Over 70 action groups organised 280 community events standing in solidarity with the girls and women of Afghanistan.
Action groups and staff also formed an estimated 25 partnerships with local organisations for joint community events and activities.
Through action groups and digital and fundraising activities, we collected 102,497 signatures in Australia, urging the new afghan government and the international community to prioritise the rights of women and girls in Afghanistan.
In 2013, Amnesty and Oxfam supported the initiative by Afghan Australian Development Organisation (AADO) to bring our a delegation, including two women, from Afghanistan to meet with Australian Federal parliamentarians and senior bureaucrats.
Amnesty also organised for leading Afghan women’s rights advocate Wazhma Frogh to join the delegation and participate in additional campaign activities.
In 2013, Amnesty presented jointly with Oxfam and AADO at Australia’s Senate Committee inquiry into aid to Afghanistan. In the subsequent report, several of our calls for Australia to increase its support to gender equality in Afghanistan were included as Senate recommendations.
Amnesty International Australia met with over 20 cross-party Australian Federal parliamentarians and ministers, as well as another dozen senior bureaucrats, to request continued attention on this issue. Several parliamentarians subsequently increased their public support for Afghan women’s rights.
We provided media skills training to 12 Afghan women and one man who were Afghan community leaders.
With help of Amnesty action groups, we achieved an estimated 100 articles in radio, print and online media outlets. We reached an average of 1.5million people during several quarters of this two-year period.
While Australia was a member of the UN Security Council (UNSC), it passed several resolutions which emphasised the need to accelerate the implementation of the National Plan for Women and Elimination of Violence Against Women law

We are part of global movement

As well as the amazing work Amnesty International Australia led on, our global movement achieved some fantastic progress in partnership with brave women’s rights advocates and organisations in Afghanistan. Most recently, in April 2015:

  • Our Secretary General Salil Shetty met with women human rights defenders, who shared their concerns regarding the security threats from armed insurgent groups, and the discrimination they face from their government.
  • Salil Shetty launched our report on women human rights defenders in Afghanistan. It received overwhelming coverage in Afghan national media and strong coverage internationally. Afghan women’s rights advocates themselves said that our report had “re-energised and emboldened them.”
  • Amnesty co-organised a human rights conference in Kabul. The conference was a real success with excellent participation from the human rights community, members of the parliament, government ministers and ambassadors.
  • Our Secretary General and delegates met with the President, Chief Executive, and First Lady. The Afghan President and First Lady both asked Amnesty to work with the government on including human rights education into school curriculum. The President acknowledged the failure of police and judiciary in addressing violence against women and said that he is determined to reform the judiciary and police.

What’s next?

While Australia’s Afghan women’s rights campaign has officially wrapped up, where opportunities arise we will continue raising our calls for gender equality in Afghanistan to the Australian Government. Our global movement will continue to pursue gender equality in Afghanistan. Amnesty has worked to improve human rights in Afghanistan for several decades and we are committed to helping all Afghan people access equal rights, freedoms and protections.