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NATO Helps Afghanistan To Preserve Women Rights

Marriet Schuurman
Marriet Schuurman

Marriet Schuurman, the NATO secretary-general's special representative for women, peace and security, says the transatlantic alliance is helping Afghanistan to safeguard the gains the country has made in recent years.

RFE/RL: How do you see the Afghan government's efforts in maintaining peace in Afghanistan?

Marriet Schuurman: As NATO's special representative for women, peace and security, I am here to see how can we fully support the efforts of the Afghan government and civil society in ensuring that what has been gained in terms of space for respect for human rights and to see how that can be best preserved.

It is important to say that a lot has been gained in terms of human rights and women's rights in particular during the past 10 years. I am very impressed by the leadership and particularly the courage of women who have been fighting for their right to equally contribute to peace and security in Afghanistan. It is really to see what we can do looking to the future to sustain that effort and make sure Afghanistan becomes a safe place for men and women.

RFE/RL: NATO is certainly aware of the escalating violence in Afghanistan. Do you think this is the right time to talk to the Taliban?

Schuurman: Sometimes emergencies overtake what needs to be done, but it's very clear that there can never be an end to the violence if there are no talks. Thus it points out even more to the urgency to have peace talks and an inclusive, ongoing peace process in order for the peace process to deliver lasting peace.

RFE/RL: What kind of commitments is NATO ready to make to support the Afghan government?

Schuurman: NATO's Resolute Support Mission, which we've had here since the beginning of the year, is a training, assisting and advising mission. Our first objective is to support the Afghan authorities in providing security themselves. We are doing this through our support for the Afghan police and the Afghan Army.

One of our efforts -- one of our big priorities -- is to ensure that we as NATO integrate the gender perspective into those endeavors and that we see to it that women are trained as security providers in order to provide security to men and women, and particularly to women. And we have to make sure these security providers have the facilities and working environment that allow them to do their job, to use the skills that they gain through the training, that they are promoted to decision-making levels.

RFE/RL: How exactly are you increasing the capacity of women in the Afghan security forces?

Schuurman: The capacity is obviously a matter for training for both men and women and that is what our mission here is about. But there is a specific need for building the capacity of the Afghan women.

For Afghan policewomen, since this year, we have started to train Afghan police officers in Turkey with the assistance of the Japanese authorities -- training facilities hosted by the Turkish authorities -- to specifically train Afghan female police officers to [give them] the basic skills they will need in order to be able to be security providers in their communities."