Around the world, we are witnessing an emerging generation of women who have power over decision making and influence over social, political and economic contexts, more than ever. However, they are still largely underrepresented at most levels of the government, industry and academia.Young Leader_Diwa_Samad_Rule of Law Council2

The Beijing conference agreement, known as the Platform for Action, dubbed women in power and decision-making one of the 12 critical areas of concern and the Economic and Social Council set a target for decision-making positions filled by women – 30 percent by 1995. Today, only 10 percent of the members of legislative bodies and even lower percentage of ministerial positions are held by women.

Despite global efforts in raising number of women in political and public positions, it is important to understand that increasing number of these positions are purely symbolic, and do not necessarily grant women real authority to bring change or gain autonomy in decision making.

The genuine influence over and participation in decision making is not only determined by equal political representation, but also through economic factors and technical capacity. Therefore, beyond gender quotas and programs, the comprehensive involvement of women across all sectors is needed to develop the resources and capacity to ensure an equitable base from which to compete for positions. Women decision makers also have more impact if supported by a strong base of capable women at all levels, in various sectors and professions to help influence workplace policies and design national programs in a way that responds to their collective needs.

I work in multiple sectors of my home country, Afghanistan, and consistently advocate for a strengthened culture of research and networking among young women. I believe that It creates the opportunity to raise their voice and advocate for their rights collectively, using evidence-based information at national and international levels. An example of my work includes advocacy for the allocation of research grants to enhance female researchers’ capacity.

Throughout my engagement with women from different walks of life, in high ranking positions, rural areas, businesswomen and youth in academia, I have witnessed the need for empowerment and change more than ever. The European Development Days 2018 will center on Women and Girls at the Forefront of Sustainable development, with strengthening women and girls’ voice and participation as one of the three key themes. In the spirit of this, I will represent the voices of these women and their perspective of empowerment. I carry a strong message on behalf of Afghan women; a message of commitment, resilience and readiness for reform and hope to focus on two topics: (i) enabling factors for women to contribute in decision-making, (ii) ways to ensure that their presence in these arenas results in gender equality and attaining the SDGs.
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