Ms. Hila Hanif
Commander’s Action Group, NTM-A/CSTC-A
In a country struggling to develop a system of governance that reconciles western democracy with its own traditional systems, the shura is a concept that resonates with Afghans.
Afghans have held shuras, or community council meetings, for centuries. Now they’re welcoming ISAF personnel who embrace the opportunity to listen to Afghan key leaders discuss the issues of greatest concern to their communities.
Last week I attended my first shura at Regional-Command North, which hosted an all-female delegation of community activists, provincial council representatives, Directors of Women’s Affairs, and Afghan National Police from the northern region. I’ve spent some time speaking with NATO Training Mission-Afghanistan mentors at Camp Eggers and with women at the Ministry of Interior about the challenges of involving Afghan women in the peace process, but I was curious to hear the perspective of women from outside of the capital.
I sat in on one of the breakout group discussions where ISAF personnel asked the women what role they should have in the peace and security of Afghanistan. Many of the women gave examples we often hear about traditional roles that mothers play in Afghan society, from educating their children to calming tensions and neighborly disputes between the men in the family. However, others were confused as to why we would even ask this question. They asked, “Would your societies be as advanced if women were not participating in all areas, including the security sector? The same applies for our country. If a man has a desire to take a part in rebuilding his country, know that a woman has the very same desires.”
The Women’s Shura was scheduled during the week of RC-North’s second Female Engagement Team training, where women from various FET teams from across the region formed their own “shura” to discuss lessons learned and challenges, not only in breaking barriers with Afghan communities, but in educating their colleagues in the role of FETs in COIN operations.
While the concept of female engagement is not entirely new, it is still young and evolving. Many of the women participate in FET activities in addition to other core duties of their unit, and often have the role of informing their colleagues and commanders who are new to the FET concept of the value that they bring to COIN activities. The two events complemented each other well, as Afghan and ISAF leaders work to identify the evolution of the role of women in peace and security.
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