The main purpose of this seminar was to raise positive voices from Afghanistan, spotlight Afghan women's situation in relation to the political and social circumstances and the social media in Afghanistan.
Among the speakers and debate participants was Norway's Defense Minister H.E. Ms. Anne-Grete Strøm-Erichsen, Ambassador to the Nordic Countries Mrs. Manizha Bakhtari, Norway’s Ambassador accredited to Afghanistan H.E. Mr. Nils Haugstveit, Special Envoy for the Sahel region in the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs H.E. Mr. Kai Eide, Editor-in-Chief at Hasht e Subh Daily Newspaper Mr. Parwiz Kawa, Secretary General at the Norwegian Afghanistan Committee Ms. Liv Kjølseth, Activist, working for women and youth empowerment in Afghanistan Mrs. Quhramaana Kakar.
In addition to the speakers, the seminar had attracted almost a hundred of participants including Ambassadors and Excellencies of many respective countries, Norwegian Defense Ministry and Ministry of Foreign Affairs Officials and organizations members.
Ambassador to the Nordic Countries Mrs. Manizha Bakhtari started the seminar by welcoming speakers and guests and thanked them for their interest and participation. Further in her welcome speech, Ambassador underlined that Afghanistan and Afghan people have been a victim and not a source of international terrorism. She highlighted women's extremely challenging and difficult situation under the dark Taliban regime and added how Afghan women, despite these challenges and difficulties they have been through, have managed to rise up again and actively participate in almost all areas of the society. She said; today women are part of the parliament holding 26 percent of the seats, millions of students are studying at the schools and universities, existence of freedom of speech and connection of the Afghan people to the world trough social media are all signs showing a new era and a young democracy rising and moving forward. Further, in her speech with reference to the many strategic agreements signed between Afghanistan and other friendly countries, Ambassador Bakhtari asked the international community for further support to build the new democracy and said that 2014 by no means will be the end of the Afghan people's struggle for peace, stability and democracy in Afghanistan.
After Ambassador`s welcome speech the seminar was opened by Norway's Defense Minister H.E. Ms. Anne-Grete Strøm-Erichsen who gave a speech and praised Afghan women's hard work in relation to involvement and participation in the political and social contexts in Afghanistan. She underlined the rapid development of women's involvement in the Afghan society naming Ambassador Bakhtari as a role model and inspiration for all Afghan women.
In her speech, H.E. Ms. Anne-Grete Strøm-Erichsen referred to some statistics in relation to developments in the past ten years. She said; 2, 5 million girls are studying at schools and universities comparing to less than 50 000 under the Taliban regime. 18 million people are users of mobile phones compared to 35,000 active telephone lines ten years ago and 90 percent of the population lives in areas with telephone coverage. So, development has undoubtedly been present, but this does not mean that efforts should not be taken to push the developments to the next level.
Development through education of women was one of the main messages of Ms. Erichsen to the Afghan people, and she said that educated women and women represented in the Parliament have a particularly important duty to do more for women’s rights in Afghanistan.
She also added that one of Norway’s main goals through the bilateral Strategic Agreement with Afghanistan is to provide support to the improvement of women's work. She said: “I will ask Afghan Government to turn their backs on corruption and strongly encourage Afghan women to continue with the remarkable work they have done so far.”
Norwegian Ambassador to Afghanistan H.E. Nils Haugstveit showed optimism and highlighted some of the challenges and opportunities Afghanistan has ahead. He asked not to see or compare Afghanistan through westernized glasses, because that would cause a different understanding. He advised the westerns to carefully observe afghan ways of solving the challenges in the country.
H.E. Mr. Kai Eide also shared some points and showed great optimism and even greater opportunities for the Afghans in the future. He underlined that change need time and Afghanistan has to continue with the successes it has achieved so far.
During the second session of the seminar, speeches, discussions and debate topics titled “Social Media in Afghanistan” by Mr. Parwiz Kawa, "Hopes for Afghanistan's Future" by H.E. Mr. Kai Eide, “Women's situation vis-à-vis the political circumstances in Afghanistan” by Ms. Quhramaan Haqani Kakar, and “Women's situation on the basis of the Norwegian Afghanistan Committee's programs in Afghanistan” by Ms. Liv Kjølseth, was presented, discussed and was subject for questions for participants.
In this session, speakers held informative presentations in their fields and showed great optimism to the developments so far. Existence of peace in the most insecure parts of the country, participation of women in the government and politics, security sectors, peace processes, primary health system with more than 22 000 educated community health workers, 170 000 teachers 37 % female and women’s contribution to the economy where among the facts presented.
To briefly summarizing it, the situation for women and girls has improved considerably since 2001 and Afghan people are not interested in returning to the chaos of the last 3-4 decades with war and destruction. The windows of the world are now open for the people of Afghanistan and they do their best to enjoy the view and get out of the misery of the past that has long pursued them.
The seminar was followed by a reception in Afghanistan embassy's residence. Excellencies like Sima Samar, Ambassadors and many officials, members of none governmental and other organizations were present at the reception. Afghan food was served, live Afghan music was performed and the seminar was concluded by a great atmosphere and a lot of new knowledge about Afghan women’s current situation.