IHRLG launched our legal literacy and women's rights advocacy program to strengthen the capacity of Afghan women leaders in Afghanistan and Pakistan to use legal avenues for protecting their rights, challenge laws and policies upon which systematic discriminatory practices or acts of violence against women are based, and apply international human rights mechanisms at the local level. Our capacity-building activities also include operating a women's rights resource center, which is managed by a volunteer committee of Afghan refugee women.
Responding to the isolation of Afghan refugee women's groups resulting from restrictions to travel, lack of resources and under-awareness of their work among their Pakistani counterparts, IHRLG is forging groundbreaking working relationships between Afghan and Pakistani NGOs and women's groups through workshops and networking opportunities. We are also helping connect Afghan women's rights activists with their counterparts in other countries where violence against women and religious extremism persist (such as Bangladesh, Malaysia, Jordan, Yemen and Morocco). Through participating in IHRL's annual international advocacy training program (Advocacy Bridge), our partner activists in Afghanistan and Pakistan have the opportunity to cultivate a comparative understanding of human rights standards and models for enforcing them by working with activists from around the world.
IHRLG's workshop for Afghan refugee women on strategic advocacy for women's human rights led to the creation of working groups focusing on Pakistani law and authorities, United Nations agencies and international NGOs, awareness of legal rights, and violence against women. These IHRLG-facilitated working groups, comprised of Afghan and Pakistani women, also contribute information for publication in VOICE OF AFGHAN WOMEN, our advocacy newsletter published by IHRLG women's rights advocacy staff in Peshawar and Washington.
Achievements of these working groups include
- Initiating dialogue with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Peshawar concerning security problems in refugee camps, highlighting reports of the kidnapping of young Afghan women living in refugee camps.
- Facilitating an unprecedented meeting between Afghan women refugees and senior Pakistani police, which resulted in the expressed interest by the Senior Superintendent of Police in working with women's rights groups to identify and resolve problems women face with law enforcement.
- Increasing NGO access to information on Pakistani laws and policy regarding refugee rights, through dialogue with the Additional Commissioner for Afghan Refugees in Peshawar.
In July 2001, IHRLG conducted a groundbreaking three-day regional workshop in Peshawar for Afghan women leaders from Afghanistan and Pakistan on "Violations of Women's Human Rights: Customs, Practices, Laws and the Role of Media." The workshop provided a unique, and much needed, opportunity for Afghan women to learn from the experiences of Pakistani women leaders in challenging customs, practices and laws that violate women's human rights, and interact with participating journalists and international experts.