Palwasha L. Kakar is the senior program officer for religion and inclusive societies at the U.S. Institute of Peace (USIP). Kakar joined USIP after four years with The Asia Foundation where she was the Afghanistan director for Women’s Empowerment and Development. Prior to joining the Foundation, Kakar led the Gender Mainstreaming and Civil Society Unit in the United Nation Development Program's Afghanistan Subnational Governance Program managing a small grants program for Afghanistan's civil society initiatives. Kakar also served as program manager for The Gender Studies Institute at Kabul University. She has experience working with the World Bank Group on gender, social justice and environmental issues surrounding their various projects in the region.

Kakar moved to Afghanistan 2004 to work with the Afghanistan Research and Evaluation Unit (AREU), an independent research organization, on women's participation at the local levels in the National Solidarity Programme (NSP). Before moving to Afghanistan, she was the director of the Newton Peace Center (currently Peace Connections) a faith-based civil society organization.

An Afghan-American, she has experience teaching and researching religion, gender, security and local governance. Kakar has published research regarding women’s participation in local governance, Pashtunwali-Afghan customary law, Afghan women's identity, and social spaces in Afghanistan. Her research has taken her to Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Egypt, Israel, Palestine, Jordan and Syria.

She earned a Master's degree focusing on gender, politics and religion from Harvard University’s Divinity School and a Bachelor's degree in Religion and Global Studies focusing on peace and conflict from Bethel College in North Newton, KS.

Publications By Palwasha

How can we negotiate with the Taliban? Afghan women know.

How can we negotiate with the Taliban? Afghan women know.

Thursday, February 7, 2019

By: Palwasha L. Kakar

Afghan political leaders met in Moscow this week with Taliban representatives amid new momentum in diplomatic efforts to end Afghanistan’s war. Like other recent discussions, including those between U.S. envoy Zalmay Khalilzad and Taliban representatives in Qatar, Afghan women remain almost entirely excluded. Yet mostly unnoticed amid the formal diplomacy, Afghan women at their country’s grass roots already have managed negotiations with local Taliban leaders.

Gender; Peace Processes; Religion

How can Afghans make peace AND protect women? Meet Ayesha Aziz.

How can Afghans make peace AND protect women? Meet Ayesha Aziz.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

By: Palwasha L. Kakar

After nearly 40 years of war, Afghanistan and the international community are urgently seeking paths for a peace process. But amid the tentative efforts—a three-day ceasefire in June, the peace march across the country by hundreds of Afghans and talks by U.S. envoy Zalmay Khalilzad—a somber question hangs for women and human rights advocates. How can Afghanistan make peace with the Taliban while protecting democracy and women’s rights?

Gender; Religion; Peace Processes

Libya’s Religious Sector and Peacebuilding Efforts (Arabic)

Libya’s Religious Sector and Peacebuilding Efforts (Arabic)

Thursday, March 16, 2017

By: Palwasha L. Kakar; Zahra Langhi

التقرير الماثل هو عصارة استبيانين أُجْرِيا في ليبيا خلال عامي 2014 و2016. والغاية منه سَبْرُ أغوار القطاع الديني في ليبيا ورصد تأثيره في الحكم والمجتمع. وقد استندت عملية استخلاص نتائج هذا التقرير إلى الجهود البحثية التي أجراها فريق من الباحثين المحليين الخبراء بالشأن الليبي. وترسم هذه النتائج خريطة لأهم التوجهات الدينية والمؤسسات الدينية والجهات الدينية الفاعلة في ليبيا، وترصد منظور الليبيين لمساهمة القطاع الديني في بناء السلام وتعزيز العدالة والديمقراطية.

Religion; Democracy & Governance; Justice, Security & Rule of Law

Libya’s Religious Sector and Peacebuilding Efforts

Libya’s Religious Sector and Peacebuilding Efforts

Thursday, March 16, 2017

By: Palwasha L. Kakar; Zahra Langhi

Derived from two surveys conducted in Libya in 2014 and 2016, this report strives to heighten understanding of the country’s religious sector and its impact on governance and society. The findings—which are bolstered by the local knowledge of Libyan researchers—map the major religious trends, institutions, and actors in the country to describe how Libyans perceive the contribution of the religious sector to building peace and fostering justice and democracy.

Religion; Democracy & Governance; Justice, Security & Rule of Law

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