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Afghan women pursue empowerment through sustainable development in UNITAR training

Twenty participants receive training on leadership, governance, and the SDGs in Japan

“Gender mainstreaming is bringing more children back to school, ensuring women’s participation in decision-making, and overall how we can contribute to the development of Afghanistan,” said Zohal Hashemi, Director of Human Resource Development at the Afghanistan Ministry of Education. “In this workshop, we learned what our responsibilities are and what we should do.”Zohal is one of 20 participants who took part in the UNITAR Women’s Leadership Programme for Afghanistan: Governance and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which was held in Hiroshima and Tokyo from 28 November to 8 December. All participants were young women working in Afghanistan; they represented a diverse range of organizations from both Kabul and the provinces, including the Office of the First Lady, the Afghanistan Women Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and Zan TV. The programme is supported by the government and people of Japan.
Although gender issues in Afghanistan have seen recent improvements, 87 percent of women experience physical, sexual, or psychological violence during their lifetime, only 19 percent of women participate in the labor force (2016), and only 17 percent of all Afghan women are literate, according to UN Women Afghanistan. Against this background, the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) Hiroshima Office programme aims to empower Afghan women to be changemakers in their workplaces and communities through offering training on leadership, good governance, and the SDGs. All of the programme’s subject matter was examined through a gender lens, such as what makes effective women leaders and how each of the SDGs — not just Goal 5: Gender Equality — is impacted by gender.
The programme also taught concrete skills related to project development and implementation. Tahera Fahimi, a Program Officer at the Organization for Better Tomorrow in Afghanistan, said, “This workshop showed me the logical relationships between the steps to identify need, looking for solutions, and developing projects to address these needs, as well as how our organizations can help society.”
Participants developed detailed, concrete action plans, which they presented on the final day of the workshop. Action plans ranged from training young women on job interview and CV writing skills to decrease female unemployment, to providing safe-houses for children so that they are not forced to become child laborers. Many commented that they were eager to implement their actions plans as soon as they return to Afghanistan. The programme included a number of study visits to, and guest speakers from, various organizations working on gender issues. In Tokyo, the group explored lessons learned with representatives from the Gender Equality Bureau of the Cabinet Office of the Government of Japan, the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), and the Japan Civil Society Network on SDGs.
The group was hosted by H.E. Dr. Bashir Mohabbat, Ambassador for the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to Japan, for an Embassy reception. H.E. Dr. Mohabbat also visited the participants at the end of the workshop in Hiroshima and commented, “Young people are the future of our country, but if we hope to see true peace and development in Afghanistan in the coming years, it is critical that all members of society have the tools and opportunities to participate equally. For this reason, I am glad to see the young women in the UNITAR Women’s Leadership Programme for Afghanistan engaged not only with the highly relevant subject matter the training provides but also in building bonds and communicating with each other.”
In Hiroshima, participants visited the Hiroshima Prefectural Government Work Style Reform Promotion and Working Women Support Division, as well as Essor, the Hiroshima Women’s Center working for gender equality. Resource Persons from UNITAR, UNDP, and the Gender Action Platform also led sessions during the workshop; they spoke with participants about gender, governance, action plan development and leadership issues from an international perspective, giving participants key information on how to successfully promote gender-based projects and policies.
Ms. Mihoko Kumamoto, Director of the UNITAR Hiroshima Office, stated “Looking toward 2030, Afghanistan is taking concrete steps toward achieving the SDGs, but we cannot simply assume these goals will be achieved without the active participation of women in all fields. The group of twenty passionate and talented women leaders are now equipped with the knowledge, skills, and network to lead the way toward sustainable development, peace, and the empowerment of all in Afghanistan.”
“I learned a lot about how to work in a group where everyone thinks in different ways,” said Tamana Farewar, a Zone Manager with the Afghanistan Women Chamber of Commerce and Industry. “How to work with diversity is the thing I especially learned from this journey.”
In the programme’s closing ceremony, a participant called on everyone to share their key message. Withone voice, the 20 women said, “We will bring the change.”

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