Supporting the women of Afghanistan: New partnership between UN Women and UNODC aims to work with women most at risk
Walking through the Kabul Female Prison and Detention Center in Afghanistan, women are taking a few moments to speak about their lives – the challenges they face, what they need most now and what they hope for their future.
This day is about listening. The women’s voices are being heard by the UN Women Special Representative in Afghanistan, Alison Davidian, and UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) Representative for Afghanistan, Anubha Sood. The two UN principles are there as part of a new partnership that aims to provide protection, essential health services, and reintegration services for women detainees and those discharged from drug treatment services.
This partnership is starting with listening to what the women need.
The women in the detention center shared how they are eager to go back to their communities, some were worried about the future of their children and how their families will welcome them, all were interested in learning new skills so they can support themselves and their families.
UNODC representative for Afghanistan mentioned that “many of the women we met in the Kabul Female Prison and Detention Center have never committed a violent offence. Imprisonment negatively impacts their lives, like decreased safety during and after imprisonment, deterioration of mental and physical health, lack of social integration due to stigma, and long-term impact on their children’s development. Our ambition with this new partnership is to ensure we work with these women to support them as much as possible while in prison and ease their integration into society.” At a moment in which every effort must be made to promote women’s rights, this partnership aims to work with women most at risk and equip them with the support and skills they need to return to their homes and be active community members.
“One of the women doctors we met today, who assists an average of 30 women per day in prison, told me that counselling is the best medicine. Counselling and other forms of psychosocial support are core to our partnership with UNODC. Listening to and meaningfully engaging women most at risk, including women who have been deprived of their liberty, is central to breaking the vicious cycle of violence, discrimination, and poverty,” said the UN Women Special Representative in Afghanistan.
Starting with listening to the women in this detention center, UN Women and UNODC are committed to seeking out the voices of those most in need and working together through this partnership to work with women most at risk.
The services provided will assist women in Kabul, Herat, and Kandahar. They aim to improve safe access to essential services as well as livelihood and employment interventions. The services will involve skills building for women, including for women currently detained, and at the community level for released prison detainees and women discharged from drug treatment centres.
This partnership in Afghanistan follows the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding by UN Women Executive Director, Sima Bahous, and UNODC Executive Director, Ghada Waly, in March 2023 in New York. The agreement provided a framework for UNODC and UN Women to work together to strengthen joint efforts in promoting gender equality and meeting the specific needs of women and girls.