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

To Help End a War, Call Libya’s Women Negotiators

To Help End a War, Call Libya’s Women Negotiators

Thursday, October 17, 2019

By: Palwasha L. Kakar

As Libya struggles to end an armed conflict that has only widened this year, it should turn to a hidden resource: the traditional peacemaking roles of its women. As in many countries facing warfare, women have long played a key role in negotiating or mediating conflicts within families, clans and local communities—but are overlooked by official institutions and peace processes. Amid Libya’s crisis, one such “hidden” peacemaker is Aisha al-Bakoush, a hospital nursing director who has expanded her healing mission from medical illnesses to armed conflict.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Gender; Peace Processes; Religion

How to push Taliban for compromise? Ask the women doing it.

How to push Taliban for compromise? Ask the women doing it.

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

By: Palwasha L. Kakar

The halt in the U.S.-Taliban dialogue, plus Afghanistan’s September election, has forced a hiatus in formal peace efforts in the Afghan war—and that creates an opening to strengthen them. A year of preliminary talks has not yet laid a solid foundation for the broad political settlement that can end the bloodshed. While talks so far have mainly excluded Afghan women, youth and civil society, the sudden pause in formal peacemaking offers a chance to forge a more inclusive, and thus reliable, process. Even better, a little-noted encounter in Qatar between women and Taliban leaders signals that a broader process is doable.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Gender; Peace Processes

Women in Conflict: Advancing Women’s Role in Peace and Security

Women in Conflict: Advancing Women’s Role in Peace and Security

Thursday, June 13, 2019

By: Palwasha L. Kakar

Palwasha Kakar, senior program officer for religion and inclusive societies, testified on June 13 at the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Western Hemisphere, Transnational Crime, Civilian Security, Democracy, Human Rights, and Global Women’s Issues' hearing on "Women in Conflict: Advancing Women's Role in Peace and Security.” Her expert testimony as prepared is presented below.

Type: Congressional Testimony

Gender; Peace Processes

Syria’s Ghalia Rahal: Surviving War, Building Peace

Syria’s Ghalia Rahal: Surviving War, Building Peace

Thursday, May 23, 2019

By: Palwasha L. Kakar; James Rupert

Amid the traumas of Syria’s war, women like Ghalia Rahal are building an unprecedented role in peace talks over their country’s future. Rahal—the founder of a network of women’s centers in northwest Syria—has helped energize a Syrian women’s movement despite threats from extremists, attacks on her workplaces, and the assassination of her son, a journalist. Now, Rahal and her women’s network in Syria’s Idlib Province face an extreme threat—the Syrian government military offensive against the province that has killed hundreds and displaced nearly 200,000 people.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Gender

Pope Francis in the Cradle of Islam: What Might It Bring?

Pope Francis in the Cradle of Islam: What Might It Bring?

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

By: Palwasha L. Kakar; Melissa Nozell

Pope Francis’ recent sojourn in the Arabian Peninsula was a powerful symbolic advance for interfaith dialogue: the first visit by a Roman Catholic pontiff to the original homeland of the Islamic faith. Francis joined eminent Muslim, Jewish and other Christian clerics in an appeal for the communal coexistence so desperately needed by a world suffering violence and persecution across humanity’s religious divides. The visit’s moving imagery included Christians and Muslims together attending the first papal mass on the peninsula. Yet this powerful symbolism will have real impact only if it inspires us all to take concrete steps—notably by governments, educational institutions and faith-based organizations.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Religion

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