By: Elena Scott-Kakures and Andrew Linder
Since writing our initial blog post, much has changed both on a global scale and within Afghanistan. In addition to the spread of COVID-19, which has led us to take our work virtual, the United States-Taliban deal and the Afghan election results were finalized. Recent circumstances prevented us from traveling to Doha to personally meet those who have firsthand experience with Women for Afghan Women’s services and capabilities. However, we are thankful for our ability to utilize technologies like Zoom to stay in touch and on task.
We, Team WAW, are especially grateful to Dr. Kent Davis-Packard and WFI for coordinating a virtual conversation during our week of intended travel. We were able to engage with and direct questions to several WAW representatives: Masuda Sultan, Megan Corrado, Benafsha Amiri, and Najia Nasim. This call helped us to refine our research agenda and direct our recommendations into two larger buckets: 1) objectives for WAW’s involvement with the peace process in the short term and 2) monitoring and implementation goals in the long term. Under these two larger research umbrellas, we identified aspects of historical peace processes that could be considered in Afghanistan, generated ideas for outreach and information campaigns, and explored opportunities for facility expansion and protection, among other important areas of concern.
Our team camaraderie and passion for this project persisted through this highly uncertain and stressful time as we worked toward completing our final report. While some of us remained in Washington, DC, and others traveled to be with family, we kept in mind just how important working towards and supporting long-term, sustainable peace in Afghanistan remains, especially for women. After our extensive virtual conversation with representatives from WAW, our practicum team prioritized creating a draft of our report. We met regularly over Zoom, which, while not ideal, was still a nice way to interact with our colleagues while maintaining a safe distance.
We were fortunate to be paired with Afghan women civil society participants and leaders through WFI’s Light of Afghanistan program. The virtual conversations our team had with these women provided useful perspectives for our project, as we strove to contextualize our recommendations in a changing Afghanistan. As the project progressed, each member of our team developed prowess in his or her area of focus for the report. The sections ranged from transitional justice to historical examples of women’s participation in peace processes. By establishing solid knowledge on these topics, each member of the team contributed a key component to the overall report, which rapidly took shape in April. The momentum was palpable as we fine-tuned our report and presentations for completion. We received helpful feedback from our Georgetown colleagues and representatives from WAW, who helped ensure our final product would be as relevant and impactful as possible.
On April 30th, we presented our report, “Inclusive Peace: Advancing Afghan Women’s Rights Through Advocacy and Community” during a special presentation organized by WFI. With participation of representatives from our partner organizations and official guests like Her Excellency Roya Rahmani of Afghanistan and Her Excellency Ambassador Sheika Alya Al-Thani of Qatar, the event featured meaningful dialogue about the future of peace in Afghanistan. It was particularly impactful to hear feedback from WAW. Najia Nasim, the organization’s director in Afghanistan, shared with the audience that reports like the one we had published were helpful not just to WAW, but to all women-focused nonprofits in Afghanistan.
While many of the circumstances during this practicum project were uncertain and unexpected, the feeling of immediacy and importance in the work we were doing was constant. Our team is extremely lucky to have been able to work with the extraordinary representatives of WAW. We learned immensely from them and to feel like we contributed to their work even a little bit is exceptionally rewarding.