13 December 2018, Hiroshima, Japan - Empowering Afghan women to be changemakers in their workplaces and communities through training on leadership, good governance, and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the United Nations Institute of Training and Research (UNITAR) Hiroshima Office, with the support of the Government and People of Japan, has successfully completed the UNITAR Women’s Leadership Programme for Afghanistan: Governance and the SDGs this week. The programme, which began with an Orientation Workshop in Kabul in mid-October, saw 20 young professional Afghan women visit Tokyo and Hiroshima, Japan, between 28 November and 8 December. The participants are young women working in Afghanistan; representing a diverse range of public sector, civil society, and private sector organizations from both Kabul and the provinces, including the Office of the First Lady, the Afghanistan Women Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and Zan TV.
The 20 participants explored leadership, social accountability, and action plan development, through learning from lessons and initiatives in Japan, as well as from international experts. All the programme’s subject matter was examined through a gender lens, such as what makes effective women leaders and how each of the SDGs — not just Goal 5: Gender Equality — is impacted by gender. Based upon the Organizational Needs Assessments they had undertaken following Workshop I, during their time in Japan, participants developed robust action plans which they presented on their final day. Action plans ranged from training young women on job interviews and CV writing skills to decrease female unemployment, to providing safe-houses for children so that they are not forced to become child laborers. Many participants said they were eager to implement their action plans as soon as they return to Afghanistan.
H.E. Dr. Bashir Mohabbat, Ambassador for the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to Japan, hosted a warm, welcoming reception for the women leaders at the Embassy in Tokyo. Towards the end of the workshop, H.E. Dr. Mohabbat joined the participants in Hiroshima and observed their final presentations, commenting: “Young people are the future of our country, but if we hope to see true peace and development in Afghanistan in the coming years, it is critical that all members of society have the tools and opportunities to participate equally. For this reason, I am glad to see the young women in the UNITAR Women’s Leadership Programme for Afghanistan engaged not only with the highly relevant subject matter the training provides but also in building bonds and communicating with each other.”
Featuring Resource Persons from UNITAR, UNDP, and the Gender Action Platform, the programme also included several study visits to, and guest speakers from, various organizations working on gender issues. In Tokyo, the group explored lessons learned with representatives from the Gender Equality Bureau of the Cabinet Office of the Government of Japan, the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), and the Japan Civil Society Network on SDGs. In Hiroshima, participants visited the Hiroshima Prefectural Government Work Style Reform Promotion and Working Women Support Division, as well as Essor, the Hiroshima Women’s Centre working for gender equality. Courtesy calls were made to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan, and to the Governor of Hiroshima Prefecture. Participants also visited the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, and met with Ms. Keiko Ogura, a hibakusha(Atomic Bomb survivor), exploring one model of post-conflict reconstruction and the powerful message of peace that Hiroshima shares with the world.
Ms. Mihoko Kumamoto, Director of the UNITAR Hiroshima Office, stated, “Looking toward 2030, Afghanistan is taking concrete steps toward achieving the SDGs, but we cannot simply assume these goals will be achieved without the active participation of women in all fields. The group of twenty passionate and talented women leaders is now equipped with the knowledge, skills, and network to lead the way toward sustainable development, peace, and the empowerment of all in Afghanistan”
The programme also taught concrete skills related to project development and implementation. Ms. Tahera Fahimi, a Program Officer at the Organization for Better Tomorrow in Afghanistan, said, “This workshop showed me the logical relationships between the steps to identify needs, looking for solutions, and developing projects to address these needs, as well as how our organizations can help society.”
In the programme’s closing ceremony, a participant called on everyone to share their key message. With one voice, the 20 women said, “We will bring the change.”
Photo 1: Group photo taken at the Embassy of Afghanistan in Japan
Photo 2: Participants visiting the Atomic-bomb Dome in Hiroshima.