KUNDUZ -- Afghan women have made remarkable achievements over the past two decades and refuse to go backward as the government and the Taliban prepare for peace talks in Qatar.
Khan Charbagh District Governor Dortaj Yamaq Khaliqi, only the second woman to serve as district governor in Afghanistan, highlighted some of her achievements and the rights Afghans are not willing to give up.
"There are no anti-government elements in the area under my control as we, with the people's support, don't allow any [insurgent] group to operate here or to challenge our security and divide our people," said Yamaq Khaliqi, who has served as governor of Khan Charbagh District in Faryab Province since 2018.
"In addition to peace efforts in the past three years, I have been able to facilitate the implementation of numerous development projects including building roads, bridges and culverts, schools and health clinics by government and relief agencies, which created jobs for thousands of locals," she said.
Yamaq Khaliqi mentioned a number of public works projects delivered this year, such as road construction, water projects and the digging of deep wells. Implementing these projects provides jobs and reduces poverty, she said.
"In the past year alone, we have provided learning and job opportunities for 700 women in producing handicrafts, marketing their products, farming, literacy and others," she said.
Yamaq Khaliqi called on the Taliban to respect women's rights after attainment of a peace settlement because women do not want to surrender the achievements they have earned.
"Unfortunately, enemies of the Afghan people don't want to see a strong woman representative [at the peace talks], but we will never surrender to the enemies," she said, referring to the recent attack on Fawzia Koofi, a member of the negotiating team that will hold peace talks with the Taliban.
Unknown gunmen opened fire on Koofi, 45, and her sister August 14 when they were returning from a meeting in Parwan Province. She was shot in her right hand and is in stable condition.
Welcoming security and development
A number of Khan Charbagh District residents said that they are happy with the improvement in security and development in the district.
"Since the district governor came here, she has improved security and we don't see any unrest," said Mahboobullah Elham, 37, a resident of Khan Charbagh District.
"In 2019, a number of elders and tribal heads approached the Taliban and asked them not to disrupt their security and harass the public," he said. "Our security is very good now with God's mercy."
"Our security forces try to prevent activities of the Taliban and other groups, and civilians co-operate with the local government," he said.
"About 50 development projects have been implemented in our district in the past two years, which created employment for hundreds of young people," said Ahmad Shah Khaliqi, a member of the Khan Charbagh District Development Assembly.
"It's God's blessing that we now have sufficient schools, clinics, [irrigation] dams and intakes, wells, roads and bridges, while some issues that still exist will soon be resolved," he said.
Hopes for lasting peace
Recent efforts for peace have made women in Faryab very hopeful, said Maria Noori, director of the Faryab Department of Women's Affairs.
"Women have suffered a lot from the war; therefore, they are hopeful for a full-fledged peace in Afghanistan," she said.
"There needs to be a guarantee that the Taliban fighters who are released don't return to fighting and that the achievements of the past two decades are not threatened," Noori said.
"After the peace settlement, the Afghan government should not restrict women's activities, and they should create opportunities for women to work in various fields to improve their families' economic situation while wearing a hijab," she said.
"Afghan women have shown in the past 20 years that they have worked in various positions and provided great services to their people," said Masooma Bayani, a women's rights activist in Maimana, the provincial capital.
"Women who were confined to their homes during the Taliban era [1996-2001] are very different from today's women," she said. "Women have made considerable achievements during the past two decades."
"The negotiating team and the Taliban should not ignore Afghan women's achievements because Afghan women have found their place in society," she said.
"According to the Afghan constitution, women have the right to work alongside men outside their homes, and the government is committed to enforcing the law," said Ahmad Javed Baider, a spokesman for the Faryab governor.
"Fortunately, women in Faryab have made great achievements during recent years and women have considerable presence in the civil service such as in education, public health, higher education, the governor's office and other institutions," he said.
"In order to encourage women in society, the local government has always tried to roll out a multitude of programmes that give women a platform to defend their legal rights," he said.