US urges inclusion of Afghan women in ongoing peace talks

The United States has urged for the involvement of Afghan women in the ongoing peace process and make sure that their voices are heard during the negotiations with the Taliban.

In a letter, members of the US Congress have told US Secretary of State Michael R Pompeo that the Afghan women were excluded from the peace talks during the February and May peace negotiations between the US negotiators and the Taliban members in Doha, Tolo News reported.

"Yet during the February and May talks in Doha between American diplomates and the Taliban, Afghan women were not represented. Afghan women voices need to be heard - not just on women's rights, but on the future of their country. We urge the State Department to protect Afghan women's negotiation position and hard-won gains in all discussions with the Taliban," the letter read.

A copy of the letter, which has also been sent to the US Special Representative on Afghan peace, Zalmay Khalilzad, has further asked the State Department to make sure that the achievements of the Afghan women in the past 18 years should be protected.

US lawmakers quoting the US Institute of Peace have said more than 68,000 Afghan women are employed in schools and universities, at least 10,000 Afghan women are doctors and healthcare professionals, and Afghan women entrepreneurs have created roughly 77,000 jobs for Afghans which are big gains that must be preserved.

Farkhunda Zahra Naderi, a women's rights activist and a former advisor to President Ashraf Ghani, said, "If you are not sitting around the table, you cannot remain in the government. Those who gather around the table, they make peace with each other; peace on their thoughts and peace on their different point of views. If you are not on the table, it means having a different point of view or having a shared point is not important."

"Afghan women have also called for their voices to be heard and today that the US Congress members have sent the letter. It is a positive step and it means that they completely support women's participation," said Shinkai Karokhail, a member of the Afghan Parliament was quoted as saying.

In response to the calls, Khalilzad has said that women's rights and achievements in war-ravaged Afghanistan will be protected.