The Center for Strategic and International Studies hosted a discussion with the First Lady of Afghanistan Rula Ghani on Friday, November 15th. The conversation was conducted between Her Excellency Rula Ghani and Ambassador Earl Anthony Wayne, a Senior Advisor for CSIS.
H.E. Rula Ghani opened the conversation by discussing the history of the partnership between Afghanistan and the United States, saying that the sacrifices made by American service members have not been in vain and that the people of Afghanistan were using the opportunity their sacrifice provided to improve. Mrs. Ghani also clarified that any opinions about the current state of Afghanistan or the future of the country were her own and was not endorsed by the government of Afghanistan.
The first topic of discussion was how the country has changed in the past five years. Mrs. Ghani noted that there had been immense changes that had led to a spirit of more openness. The openness has allowed the people of Afghanistan to speak up more, the population has also used more creative problem solving, and have been encouraged to speak about the solutions more with open palace policy.
The discussion then moved to how women are participating in the peace process that is occurring currently in Afghanistan. Mrs. Ghani discussed how in the past two years bringing peace to Afghanistan has become a priority for the general population and the women are leading the call for it. The strong push comes from women who are worried about the safety of their children on their way to school and want to see peace in the country so that the children can have a bright future. However, Mrs. Ghani made it very clear that the peace must be negotiated by Afghanis and that all Afghanis must be involved in the peace process, including women.
The role of women in the peace talks is of immense importance to Mrs. Ghani. Women from all over the country have visited Mrs. Ghani to discuss their ideas of peace and have become very vocal in outreach after the uncertainty of the last years. The women have also become more empowered with the backing of the Afghanistan constitution and more Afghanis are supportive of the constitution as they see it guaranteeing their rights in the country. The only foreseeable barrier to peace in Mrs. Ghani’s mind is the Taliban, she believes that Taliban members still have more to learn to understand that women should be a part of the peace negotiations.
The discussion was then opened to questions from the audience many of whom were curious about the importance or lasting effects of the Doha talks. Mrs. Ghani said that she does not consider the Doha talks to be true peace negotiations since not all Afghanis were involved. She also said that the Doha talks gave legitimacy to the Taliban and was detrimental to the Afghani people who wished to move forward with a peace protected by the constitution. The discussion ended on a hopeful note with Mrs. Ghani saying that the quickest road forward involved economic development which the Afghani government was incentivizing. She expressed it was immediately necessary to bolster the agricultural sector to promote food security in the country and that bolstering the agricultural sector was important because so many women were employed by it. Mrs. Ghani expressed that the way forward was for Afghani people to fin what makes them special or conducive to Afghanistan and to cultivate that so the country may find lasting peace.