Voluntary Commitment on Local Level Improves Women’s Access to Justice

A two-day workshop for female volunteer gender focal points and the heads of the Departments of Women’s Affairs (DoWA)
Yesterday, a two-day workshop for female volunteer gender focal points and the heads of the Departments of Women’s Affairs (DoWA) of the Afghan provinces Badakhshan, Baghlan, Balkh, Jawzjan, Kunduz, Samangan, and Takhar ended in Mazar-e Sharif, Balkh. Gender focal points offer legal advice to women in their communities, helping to access justice. The workshop focussed on the volunteer gender focal points’ work and experiences in Afghan provinces. The Afghan-German Cooperation’s project for the promotion of the rule of law (RoL) supported the activity technically and financially.

Gender focal points are actively involved women in their communities. Some of them work as teachers; others are members of local Shuras for women. Legal expert at the Ministry of Women, Ms Sahar Ariaye, highlighted: “This conference helps us to reach one of our main goals: access to justice. By conducting such conferences, we create a good network and connection between gender focal points in the Northern Provinces. They can now consult each other to help solving cases in their districts”. “Gender focal points are new to many people. They don’t know about their existence. By launching these kind of conferences, people can better understand the concept of gender focal points. In Baghlan, they coordinate excellently with the DoWA”, the Head of Baghlan’s DoWA, Ms Khadija Yaqeen, added.

Nominated by the Departments of Women’s Affairs, gender focal points participated in tailor-made training that focus on women’s needs in their communities and the participants’ own capacities. RoL supports two local non-governmental organisations that provide training to gender focal points; namely Better Afghanistan Organization for Peace and Human Rights (BAOPHR) as well as the Justice for All Organization (JFAO). The workshops cover legal matters such as family or criminal law as well as soft skills, including mediation and interview techniques. Thus, the participants learn how to advise women correctly, especially regarding sensitive matters.

One gender focal point of Badakhshan stated: “This conference helped us gender focal points to coordinate with those of other provinces, to know about their responsibilities, challenges and experiences.” During the workshop, the participants have the opportunity to discuss the challenges they faced during the past years as well as ways to overcome these if possible and to facilitate local cooperation.

To improve access to justice, RoL has been supporting gender focal points since 2015, providing training in Balkh and Badakhshan. Due to the activity’s success, the programme expanded its efforts to the provinces Takhar and Samangan in 2017. In cooperation with the Department of Women’s Affairs and further stakeholders, RoL is planning to extend the volunteer gender focal point systematic support to the provinces Baghlan, Jawzjan and Kunduz in 2018.

The programme Promotion of the Rule of Law in Afghanistan (RoL) is being implemented by the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH on behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ). The programme aims at ensuring that the Afghan state is based on the rule of law, has a properly functioning judicial system and provides legal security for all citizens. To ensure legal protection for all citizens, RoL has been supporting so-called Huquq bureaus, which have handled more than 77,000 civil cases since 2013. The programme also puts particular emphasis on promoting women’s rights and strengthening their access to justice and the job market.