From Afghanistan - so much to say!

5 October 2005

Greetings from Kabul! This is my first posting. I'd like to keep it brief, but I'm totally overwhelmed as there is much to say. I'm thrilled to be a part of this, and have already enjoyed reading postings and hearing about the lives and experiences of others. As for me, I've been in Afghanistan for 3 years and assumed many incarnations. My current post is as Senior Gender Officer and Head of the Gender Section for the Joint Electoral Management Body Secretariat (JEMBS) at UNOPS Afghanistan Project Implementation Facility... probably one of the longest titles I've ever had! In short, I'm the "gender person" for Afghanistan's recently-passed Parliamentary elections (18 Sept). I can say so much about quotas and participation of women in politics and all... but I'll start with something about 1325. In my other capacity, I'm a PhD researcher, working on my dissertation (a lifetime project, surely!). My research is on the effects of gender-focused international aid in post-conflict Afghanistan. I've recently published a report along those same lines. I'll see if I can gather up enough tech-knowledge to post it here.

Looking forward to learning from you all!


To start, here's the bit about 1325. In reference to 1325 and Windhoek in Afghanistan, I wrote:

The above guidelines are useful as benchmarks, but bringing gender programs to fruition in the context of post-conflict is challenging. In fact, concerns have been raised regarding Resolution 1325 due to difficulty in implementing the guidelines and an inability to apply the concepts to the field. Despite years of theories and practice, the field of post-conflict still lacks a robust understanding of the term “gender” and its progeny – gender mainstreaming, gender analysis, etc. Such terms are still elusive to us, despite myriad attempts to implement gender perspectives in post-conflict work throughout the world. At a minimum, working in such contexts requires a gender-aware approach that addresses how policies affect women and men differently, if at all. If yes, the policymaker’s task is to find ways to prevent disadvantage to one or the other (United Nations Research Institute for Social Development 2005: 237).


Most of the work on gender and conflict suffers from a reductionist view of gender, focusing mainly on women and women’s roles. This could perhaps be due to the haste in which programs are implemented in conflict/post-conflict. Or perhaps to our narrow understanding of gender, our inability to ground it in the local context, or our failure to convey its meaning accurately. For whatever reason, this research reinforces previous work arguing that we need a more encompassing concept of gender that includes understanding of how the process of “gendering” works in reality and how policies and projects become “gendered” in their context (UN Inter-Agency Network on Women and Gender Equality, OECD/DAC Network on Gender Equality, and UN Division for the Advancement of Women 2003). “For my organization, gender was conflated with women,” a representative of an Afghan women’s NGO said. “I wondered whether [we] used the term gender because it was the term used most often by donors”.


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