Despite years of efforts aimed at expanding women’s rights and opportunities in Iraq and Afghanistan, women in those countries face major obstacles in consolidating these gains. Recognizing that women’s empowerment contributes significantly to stability, USIP convened experts to assess what has been learned in developing women’s programs in Afghanistan and Iraq and to establish best practices for future programs in conflict zones.

302

Summary

  • As Afghanistan and Iraq enter a difficult transition period, women in these countries are increasingly vulnerable to having their rights and opportunities set back at least a generation. Deteriorating security in both countries also places women on the front lines again.
  • In Iraq, the women’s rights movement has stagnated, quotas protecting women’s political inclusion risk being eliminated, and efforts have stalled to revise Article 41 of the Iraqi Constitution, the problematic article that relates to personal status laws.
  • In Afghanistan, women continue to be largely excluded from the peace process, and reconciliation efforts with the Taliban could undermine the significant gains women have achieved since 2001. 
  • Advancing women’s empowerment is an essential priority for the transition in each country as it can contribute directly to sustainable stability. The current transition period represents a critical time to assess lessons learned from U.S. engagement in both countries, particularly regarding women’s programming.
  • Undertaking such an assessment is timely and important given serious budget constraints facing the foreign affairs community, potential donor fatigue, and limited resources. 
  • By identifying common challenges and best practices, these lessons can carry over into future programming for women in conflict and postconflict zones, thus making such projects more effective. 
  • The lessons learned and best practices that emerge from this project will inform implementation of the U.S. National Action Plan on Women, Peace, and Security.

About the Report

During 2011, the Center for Gender and Peacebuilding at the U.S. Institute of Peace (USIP) brought together a “community of practice” focused on examining lessons learned from conflict and postconflict programs of support for women in Iraq and Afghanistan. This community comprises representatives of U.S. government agencies and departments, international and domestic NGOs, along with members of congressional staff and the U.S. armed forces, and representatives of allied embassies.

This review of lessons learned is in the context of the recent executive order (EO) from President Obama (December 19, 2011), which emphasizes that it shall be the policy and practice of the executive branch of the U.S. government to have a National Action Plan on Women, Peace, and Security. Most relevant to this effort, the EO recognizes that “promoting women’s participation in conflict prevention, management, and resolution, as well as in postconflict relief and recovery, advances peace, national security, economic and social development, and international cooperation.

About the Authors

Kathleen Kuehnast directs the Center for Gender and Peacebuilding at USIP. Manal Omar directs the Iraq, Iran, and North Africa Programs at USIP. Ambassador Steven E. Steiner served as a senior adviser in the U.S. Department of State’s Office of Global Women’s Issues. Previously, he was a senior adviser in the Office of Trafficking in Persons and director of the department’s Iraqi Women’s Democracy Initiative. Hodei Sultan is a senior program specialist in USIP’s Center for Conflict Management’s Afghanistan Program.

Related Publications

The Taliban Are Stuck in the Past — But Afghan Youth Can Create a Better Future

The Taliban Are Stuck in the Past — But Afghan Youth Can Create a Better Future

Thursday, August 11, 2022

By: Abdul Basit Amal

When pressed on the future of girls’ education in Afghanistan, Taliban Deputy Foreign Minister Mohammad Abbas Stanikzai stated that their government law requires education for “both men and women” and signaled the former insurgent group would reopen girls’ schools once the Taliban government developed “some sort of solution.”

Type: Blog

GenderYouth

A Year After the Taliban Takeover: What’s Next for the U.S. in Afghanistan?

A Year After the Taliban Takeover: What’s Next for the U.S. in Afghanistan?

Thursday, August 11, 2022

By: Kate Bateman

A year ago this month, the United States’ longest war ended, punctuated by the Taliban’s rapid takeover of Kabul. In the year since, U.S. policy on Afghanistan has focused on evacuating remaining U.S. citizens and partners in the country and addressing the country’s deteriorating humanitarian and economic crises. U.S. engagement with the Taliban has been limited and Washington has premised normalizing relations on the Taliban upholding counterterrorism commitments, respecting human rights and establishing an inclusive political system. There has been little indication that the Taliban are interested in following through on the latter two issues and the recent killing of al-Qaida leader Ayman al-Zawahiri in Kabul demonstrates that the regime has not met its pledge to cut ties with transnational terrorist groups.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Global Policy

The Latest on al-Qaida after al-Zawahiri: 3 Things You Need to Know

The Latest on al-Qaida after al-Zawahiri: 3 Things You Need to Know

Tuesday, August 9, 2022

By: Asfandyar Mir, Ph.D.

It's been about 10 years since the killing of al-Qaida leader Osama Bin Laden. In July, his successor Ayman al-Zawahiri was killed in a drone strike in Kabul, Afghanistan. In this episode of The Latest, Asfandyar Mir, a senior expert in USIP's Asia Center, describes where this leaves al-Qaida, what it means for U.S. counterterrorism policy, and who the next leader of al-Qaida might be.

Type: Blog

Violent Extremism

View All Publications