Without Afghan Women, There Can Be No Peace

Studies have shown when women participate in peace processes, the resulting agreements are more successful and durable. Recent talks between the Trump administration and the Taliban didn’t just disregard that data—they were also direct violation of the Women, Peace and Security Act of 2017 that requires the full and meaningful participation of women in U.S. peace negotiations.

(Casey Johnson / U.S. Institute of Peace)

The Afghan Women’s Network, comprised of 125 Afghan women’s organizations, has been protesting the exclusion of Afghan women from these talks from the beginning. They also have objected to the exclusion of the democratically elected government of Afghanistan. These sham negotiations did not include the Afghan government and Afghan women, two groups who are vitally needed to resolve the conflict. 

The Taliban has complete control of some 3 percent, not 50, of the Afghan population. In those regions, they have issued draconian regulations that especially limit women’s access to health care and education and restrict women from working outside the home. 

The 76 percent of the population that is ruled by the Afghan government, by contrast, includes some nine million children who go to K-12 school, 40 percent of whom are girls; 158 colleges and universities offering a four-year higher education; 80 two-year  colleges across 34 provinces; and a variety of hospitals, clinics and midwives who have significantly lowered the maternal and child mortality rates.

The Afghan people, despite constant attacks by the Taliban, have also conducted both local and national elections. On September 28th, Afghanistan will hold its fourth presidential election. Today, Afghan women make up 40 percent of voters—including doctors, lawyers, teachers, entrepreneurs, judges, ambassadors, cabinet members and 28 percent of the members of the parliament.

How could the U.S. ever have trusted the Taliban? They continue to show no respect for human rights and women’s rights. All through the negotiations, the Taliban have killed thousands of people to try to increase their leverage at the bargaining table. In August and the first week of September alone, the Taliban and their hit-and-run suicide bombings have killed over 639 people—and this is a conservative estimate.

Afghan women have been demanding to be included in peace negotiations with the U.S. since they began.  We should have listened to them.


Eleanor Smeal is president of the Feminist Majority Foundation and publisher of Ms. For over five decades, she has played a leading role in both national and state campaigns to win women’s rights legislation, including the Equal Rights Amendment.