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The role of women in nation-building: Rocking the Boat at the Risk of making it Capsize?

I have been in exile for a long time, and I was amazed at the resilience, intelligence, strength and ability of the Afghan women that I met who came from inside the country and around the world. These women, I promise, can rebuild the country with no problem.1 In this paper I propose to examine the role played by women in post-conflict scenarios, especially with regards to peace-keeping and nation building. I would like to begin with a general statement about the important and equal role of women in society, a principle which is enshrined in both international human rights documents such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. It is also a principle that is accepted by the major religions, including Islam. The proposed title of the paper takes its inspiration from the following quote: Few policymakers responsible for nation-building would argue against the ultimate goal of establishing equitable, democratic and egalitarian societies in which the human rights of women are respected. Many however, express the fear that pursuing that goal “too soon” may rock the boat, and that in dealing with a boat so shaky that it may capsize anyway, you just can’t take the risk. (Bernard et al, 2008: 3) This paper seeks to determine what role women should play in postconflict scenarios, without “capsizing the boat”. It questions to what degree women’s involvement must be postponed in order to first “stabilize the situation”. Some would argue that given the various advantages in women’s involvement sooner rather than later, that their involvement ought not to be postponed.1 The paper will particularly draw upon the involvement of women in Afghanistan. However, Afghanistan itself provides examples of the danger and difficulty of promoting women’s involvement in nation-building. For example, as recently as Sunday 29th September 2008 it was reported that an iconic Afghan policewoman, Malalai Kakar, had been shot and killed, and that the Taliban had claimed responsibility for her death.2 This was not the first instance of a woman in Afghanistan’s post-2001 police force being directly targeted for assassination. The question these incidents raise is whether an emphasis on promoting the participation of women in the Afghani police-force is premature: is this an example of “rocking the boat” or is this all part and parcel of nation-building? The proposed broad outline for the paper is as follows: Introduction and basic premises: The equality of women and the role of women in society: general legal, social and religious principles; Women and nation-building: definitions, general principles, international documents and statistics; Afghanistan: processes and problems – historical context and modern issues; Conclusion: recommendations for Afghanistan in particular and for women in nation-building in a more general sense.
Journal Article
Type of thesis
Williamson, M. E. J. B. (2019). The role of women in nation-building: Rocking the Boat at the Risk of making it Capsize? Human Rights, 13(2), 85–112. https://doi.org/10.22096/hr.2019.105277.1100
This article is published under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0) license.