Oxfam welcomes funding to reduce violence against women in Afghanistan

Humanitarian Advocacy, Media Releases, News article written on the 09 Jul 2012

The increased focus on women and girls in Afghanistan announced by Foreign Minister Carr today was essential to ensuring women’s rights did not go backwards in the country, international aid agency Oxfam Australia said.

The Australian Government today announced it would commit $17.7 million to the promotion of women’s rights in Afghanistan by addressing violence against women. Alarmingly, 87% of women in Afghanistan face at least one form of domestic violence, with some experiencing several forms. The funding will help protect women and girls as well as promote their rights and is in line with the Government’s responsibility and commitment to implement its own National Action Plan on Women Peace and Security in Afghanistan.

In the lead up to yesterday’s Tokyo conference on the future of Afghanistan, Oxfam, which currently works in 18 of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces,  has been raising concerns about whether enough will be done to protect women and girls as international forces withdraw from Afghanistan and political deals are negotiated with armed organisations like the Taliban.

“The significant gains achieved over the past decade are fragile and easily reversible, especially for women and girls,” Oxfam Australia’s Executive Director Andrew Hewett said.

“It is fantastic to see the Australian Government taking a leading role on this important issue.”

Unfortunately, Australia’s commitment in this area is yet to be matched by the international community, which Oxfam believes has let down the women and girls of Afghanistan.

“Afghan women and girls were looking to the international community to protect the progress they have made in the last decade. While some important steps have been taken, notably in a renewed commitment to their constitutional rights and better implementation of laws, at an international level this is still not enough to entrench the fragile gains that have been made so far,” Mr Hewett said.

“There are not enough concrete steps or firm affirmations of how women will play a better role in the transformation phase of their country.”

Oxfam also welcomed the $1 billion Australia has committed to Afghanistan aid over the next four years, as part of $16 billion internationally, but raised questions about the lack of agreed measures to fight corruption and Afghanistan’s future beyond 2017.

“More effective measures to tackle waste and fight corruption were badly needed. Donors agree that Afghan organisations must be supported to hold their own government to account, but they fell short of explaining how they are going to do this,” Mr Hewett said.

“The commitment to give $4bn a year until 2015 and to continue to support Afghanistan at a similar level until 2017 is vital and welcomed. But it is unclear how much of this is new investment or what will happen after 2017. It will take decades, not five years, to pull Afghans out of poverty. When we look at what has been achieved in the last 11 years, it is clear that looking forward, it will be difficult to achieve more progress with less aid.”

Oxfam has been working in Afghanistan for three decades, helping people find enough to eat, send their children to school, and cope with conflict and disasters. We also help people achieve sustainable livelihoods, access essential services and uphold their human rights – particularly women.

Media contact: Raina Hunter, Oxfam Australia Media Coordinator – 0402 145 820 or rainah@oxfam.org.au