Monday

28th Nov 2022

Opinion

Time for EU to be a real ally of Afghan women

  • Girls and women will be the first victims in Afghanistan after the takeover by the Taliban. (Photo: DVIDSHUB)
Listen to article

No introductions are needed for what is happening in Afghanistan.

The pandemic has taken a heavy toll on the country of 39 million and droughts threaten many livelihoods, with 12 million Afghanis facing emergency levels of food insecurity.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

Now, what looked like an effortless rise of the Taliban to power poses a threat to millions of men, women, and children.

Crises are not gender-equal

We know that no one is immune to a humanitarian crisis: men and women, children, and adults.

We also know crises disproportionally affect girls and women because of their gender. They are 70 percent of the world's hungry. Girls are the first to be taken out of school. They are the first to get married young and against their will. They are victims of sexual violence. We must acknowledge lived experiences to find the right responses.

Afghanistan is no different.

Headlines about what the Taliban rule will mean for girls and women are everywhere. Photos of women are being erased from public life. Women are forced out of work. Testimonies come from women journalists being threatened.

It is impossible to take Taliban reassurances seriously. In no uncertain terms, gender alone is enough of a risk.

A quick but expected EU reaction

The EU reacted quickly and with strong statements.

Its high representative for foreign affairs, Josep Borrell, issued a declaration stating that "the protection and promotion of all human rights, in particular those of women and girls, must be an integral part of these efforts [for a political solution] and women should be supported and able to contribute fully to this process."

Such demands seem overly optimistic. Officials have already admitted what many suspected: the EU has little leverage. In the meantime, China and Russia seem to be ready to fill in the vacuum.

The inconvenient truth is we do not seem to know what to do. The situation is rapidly evolving and no one can argue they have all the answers.

Despite this uncertainty, there are steps we can take to support girls and women. Our leaders must pause grandiose statements and put the tools we have in use.

Supporting Afghani girls and women

The EU has means to help Afghanis, some already voiced by leading MEPs.

As many have said already, EU countries must fast-track asylum applications. The Qualification Directive gives us much to work with, especially when it comes to girls and women, as it recognises that gender-related violations can constitute persecution.

The problem is that the most affected people are often the ones unable to flee. Afghanis in general, and girls and women in particular, wishing to seek refuge outside Afghanistan must be supported to do so.

Team Europe needs to work with our partners around the world and ensure an open and safe passage, among others by keeping the Kabul airport operational and by providing air bridges to those in need.

Equal resources must be put to support girls and women who remain. In the mid-term, the EU must develop a Strategy for Afghanistan as an unambiguous framework for support.

Any such strategy needs to be human-centred with people's well-being at its core, and identify intersecting forms of violence and specific threats faced by girls and women.

More than Afghanistan

The people of Afghanistan need our support urgently - this is the absolute priority. But not drawing conclusions beyond Afghanistan itself is dangerously short-sighted.

We need to be real allies of girls and women globally, and work hand in hand with them to strengthen their role in their communities.

The EU must ensure that feminism is at the core of its external policy; the lived experiences of people, including gender and intersectionality, must be an integral part of the Union's work rather than an occasional add-on.

The recently adopted and ambitious Gender Action Plan now moves to implementation. If we truly care about gender equality, we need an equally ambitious funding to back the text so that words can become impact.

The "Global Europe" funding instrument is also equipped to help, identifying the need to empower women and children as a global issue. According to the text, "at least 85 percent of actions under [this instrument] ... should have gender equality as a principal or significant objective."

Ensuring this translates into meaningful action must be a priority, accompanied by a transparent system allowing civil society to hold institutions into account.

These actions are by no means enough. On the contrary, they are mere examples of the bare minimum the EU should do.

On World Humanitarian Day a few days ago, our leaders shared their commitments. If there was ever a time for the EU to have a good look at the mirror, it is now.

It is the time to decide between living up to those commitments or admitting they are empty words. The only certainty is we will live with the consequences of this decision for a very long time.

Author bio

Serap Altinisik is representative of Plan International to the EU and head of the EU Office, board member of CIVICUS and FAIR SHARE of Women Leaders.

Disclaimer

The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author's, not those of EUobserver.

Column

Afghanistan: Europe's disgrace

Last year, 1,200 Afghans were deported from the EU. Thousands of them left voluntarily. Clearly 2021 is not 2015, despite what some governments might say.

Von der Leyen offers funding for resettling Afghans

EU Commission chief said the EU executive was ready to provide funding for EU countries that helped resettle refugees and planned to raise the resettlement issue at a G7 meeting on Tuesday

Letter

Urgent EU action needed for Afghan refugees

For 20 years, Westerners and Afghans have been trying to build a free and democratic Afghanistan. This project has failed. Let us avoid that those who believed in it pay the price.

A missed opportunity in Kazakhstan

Tokayev received congratulations on his election victory from presidents Xi, Putin, Erdogan, and Lukashenko. However, the phone in the Akorda, Kazakhstan's presidential palace, did not ring with congratulatory calls from Berlin, Paris, London, or Washington.

News in Brief

  1. 'Pro-Kremlin group' in EU Parliament cyberattack
  2. Ukraine will decide on any peace talks, Borrell says
  3. Germany blocks sale of chip factory to Chinese subsidiary
  4. Strikes and protests over cost-of-living grip Greece, Belgium
  5. Liberal MEPs want Musk quizzed in parliament
  6. Bulgarian policeman shot dead at Turkish border
  7. 89 people allowed to disembark in Italy, aid group says
  8. UN chief tells world: Cooperate on climate or perish

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersCOP27: Food systems transformation for climate action
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region and the African Union urge the COP27 to talk about gender equality
  3. International Sustainable Finance CentreJoin CEE Sustainable Finance Summit, 15 – 19 May 2023, high-level event for finance & business
  4. Friedrich Naumann Foundation European DialogueGender x Geopolitics: Shaping an Inclusive Foreign Security Policy for Europe
  5. Obama FoundationThe Obama Foundation Opens Applications for its Leaders Program in Europe
  6. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBA lot more needs to be done to better protect construction workers from asbestos

Latest News

  1. Legal scholars: Prosecuting Putin 'legally problematic'
  2. A missed opportunity in Kazakhstan
  3. EU's Hungary funds, China, energy, and Frontex This WEEK
  4. Sweden says 'no' to EU asylum relocation pledges
  5. The 'proof' problem with EU sanctions — and how to fix it
  6. The EU gas cap: will the bottle ever be 'uncorked'?
  7. Enough talk, only rights can eliminate patriarchal violence
  8. Swedish EU presidency: 'Ukraine, Ukraine, Ukraine'

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Committee of the RegionsRe-Watch EURegions Week 2022
  2. UNESDA - Soft Drinks EuropeCall for EU action – SMEs in the beverage industry call for fairer access to recycled material
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic prime ministers: “We will deepen co-operation on defence”
  4. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBConstruction workers can check wages and working conditions in 36 countries
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Canadian ministers join forces to combat harmful content online
  6. European Centre for Press and Media FreedomEuropean Anti-SLAPP Conference 2022

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us