Document Type : Research Article


Lecturer in Law at the University of Waikato, New Zealand


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. (Bernard et al, 2008: 150) 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. 
This paper seeks to determine what role women should play in post-conflict 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. 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. 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.


  1. A) Books & Articles:

    1. Bernard, C., Jones, S., Oliker, O., Thurston, C. Q., Stearns, B. and Cordell, K (2008). Women and Nation-Building, California: Rand Corporation.
    2. Dobbins, J., Jones, S., Crane, K., and De Grasse, B (2007). The Beginner’s Guide to Nation-Building, California: Rand Corporation.
    3. Engineer, A. (2004). The Rights of Women in Islam, 2nd ed, New Delhi: New Dawn Press.
    4. Kamali, M (2008). “References to Islam and Women in the Afghan Constitution”, Arab Law Quarterly, No. 22, pp. 270-299.
    5. Richmond, Oliver & Henry Carey (eds.) (2005). Subcontracting Peace: The Challenges of NGO Peacebuilding, Aldershot: Ashgate.
    6. Waines, D (1995). An Introduction to Islam, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
    7. Welchman, L. (2007). Women and Muslim Family Laws in Arab States – A Comparative Overview of Textual Development and Advocacy, Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press.
    8. Williamson, M (2009). Terrorism, War and International Law: the legality of the use of force against Afghanistan in 2001, Aldershot: Ashgate.

    B) Documents:

    1. UNICEF and Innocenti Research Center (2000). “Domestic Violence against Women and Girls” Innocenti Digest, No. 6, Florence, Italy.
    2. UN Doc A/58/323
    3. UN Doc A59/2005,
    4. UN Doc A/59/2005/Add.2
    5. UN Doc S/Res/1325 (2000), adopted by the Security Council at its 4213th meeting, on 31 October 2000
    6. UN Docs S/PRST/2001/31
    7. UN Docs S/PRST/2002/32
    8. UN Docs S/PRST/2004/40
    9. UN Docs S/PRST/2005/52
    10. UN Docs S/PRST/2006/42
    11. UN Doc S/PRST 2004/40
    12. UN Doc S/Res/1325 (2000).
    13. UN Development Programme (2007). Afghanistan Human Development Report 2007 - Bridging Modernity and Tradition: Rule of Law and the Search for Justice, Pakistan
    14. UNIFEM (2006). Uncounted and Discounted: A Secondary Data Research Project on Violence against Women in Afghanistan, Afghanistan.
    15. UN Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women (1993).
    16. UN Economic and Social Council, “The Situation of Women and Girls in Afghanistan”, UN Doc E/CN.6/2006/5.
    17. Afghan Constitution,
    18. The Convention for the Elimination of Discrimination against Women 1981.
    19. Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women, UNGA A/RES/54/4, 15 October 1999, Fifty-fourth Session, Agenda Item 109.
    20. AIHRC, Human Rights Situation in Afghanistan during 2006-2007.
    21. International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
    22. UN Doc S/Res/1325 (2000)
    23. UN Docs S/PRST/2007/5
    24. UN Development Programme, Afghanistan Human Development Report 2007 - Bridging Modernity and Tradition: Rule of Law and the Search for Justice (UNDP, Pakistan), 2007: 26 citing UNIFEM Uncounted and Discounted: A Secondary Data Research Project on Violence against Women in Afghanistan (UNIFEM Afghanistan, 2006).

    C) Websites:

    1. “Secretary-General’s Remarks at General Assembly tribute to Secretary-General and Oath of Office ceremony of Secretary-General designate, 14 December 2006, Available online at: (last accessed on 28 November 2008).
    2. El Baradei, M “Human Security and the Quest for Peace in the Middle East”, Sadat Lecture for Peace, University of Maryland, 24 October 2006, Available online at: (last accessed 28 November 2008).
    3. UN Peace building Commission website: (last accessed 28 November 2008).
    4. UN Economic and Social Council, Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon, “Remarks at the End of the Second Session of the Peace building Commission”, 23 June 2008, available at: (last accessed 28 November 2008).
    5. UN Security Council Resolution 1325 (2000), 2008-2009 Action Template synopsis, Available at: (last accessed 28 November 2008).
    6. “Helpful Language on SCR 1325: Women and Gender Issues”, Available online at: (last accessed 28 November 2008).
    7. Taskforce on Women, Peace and Security, at: ianwge/taskforces/wps/history.html (last accessed on 2 December 2008).
    8. Amnesty International Report 2008, The State of the World’s Human Rights, Afghanistan, Available online at: (last accessed 28 November 2008).
    9. UNESCO “A defender of Afghan women’s right to education – Safia Ama Jan (1941-2006)”, Available online at: (last accessed 28 November 2008).
    10. International News Safety Institute, “Afghanistan: Media Safety” 7 August 2007, Available online at: =109%3Aafghanistan -media-safety&id=3939%3Aafghanistan-suspected-killers-of-female-tv-journalist-identified&option=com_content&Itemid=100105 (last accessed 2 December 2008).
    11. TimesOnline,“Leading policewoman Malalai Kakar shot dead in Afghanistan” 29 September 2008 article4842498.ece (last accessed 2 December 2008).
    12. Jacinto, L., ABC “Kandahar’s only Policewoman walks a tough beat – veiled” 2 October [2007], Available online at: /press/ABC100203.html (last accessed 2 December 2008).
    13. UNIFEM Afghanistan, Violence against Women Primary Database, Available online at: (last accessed 8 December 2008)
    14. Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission, Human Rights Situation in Afghanistan During 2006-2007, Available online at Rep_eng_H.R_situation2006_2007.pdf (last accessed 8 December 2008).
    15. Afghanistan Women’s News, “Self-immolation on the rise” Available at: (last accessed 8 December 2008).
    16. Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission, Evaluation Report on General Situation of Women in Afghanistan, Available online at Evaluation_Rep_Gen_Sit_Wom.htm (last accessed 8 December 2008).
    17. NAPWA brochure, Available online at: docs/pubs/07/NAPWA_brochure.pdf (last accessed 15 December 2008).
    18. Afghan National Development Strategy (‘ANDS’), Available online at: (last accessed 15 December 2008).
    19., Berglund, N “Police face huge training challenges in Afghanistan” 29 September 2008, Available online at: article2681857.ece (last accessed 17 December 2008).
    20. US Department of State, “Afghanistan Programme Overview”, Available online at: (last accessed 14 January 2009).
    21. Dollar, D., Fismond, R., and Gatti, R., “Are Women Really the ‘Fairer’ Sex? Corruption and Women in Government (Washington DC: The World Bank, Policy Research Report on Gender and Development, Working Paper Series No 4, 1999) Available at: (last accessed 12 January 2009).
    22. New Zealand Census of Women’s Participation 2008, Available online at: 2008_Census_of_Womens_Participation.pdf (last accessed 15 January 2009) at 56.
    23. Stephenson, C (January 2005). “Nation-Building”, Beyond, January 2005, Available online at: (last accessed 27 November 2008).
    24. The Guardian,Obituary: Shaima Rezayee, 15 June 2005, Available online at: (last accessed 2 December 2008).
    25. “Afghan woman activist shot dead” 25 September 2006, Available online at: (last accessed 28 November 2008).
    26. The Guardian,“Taliban kills top Afghan woman” 26 September 2006, Available online at: (last accessed on 28 November 2008)
    27. BBC News, “Afghan woman radio head shot dead” 6 June 2007, Available online at; (last accessed 2 December 2008).
    28. New Zealand Police: Police News, Vol. 40, No.10, November 2007 Available online at: (last accessed 13 January 2009) 228-231.
    29., 28 September 2008, Iconic Afghan Policewoman Shot Dead”, Available online at: 20089287317569974.html (last accessed on 29 September 2008).