Women’s participation during crises: UK statement to the OSCE

Emma Logan (UK delegation to the OSCE) says that the series of restrictions imposed by the Taliban are effectively erasing women and girls from Afghan society.

Thank you, Mr Chair, for convening us on this important topic at a time when threats to gender equality continue to increase. And I would like to thank our expert panellists for their sobering updates, reminding us of the terrible situation Afghan women face in terms of participation in political and public life.

At the global level, the Global Gender Gap Report 2022 shows that Political Empowerment is the largest remaining gender gap, and it is also the subindex with the widest dispersion among countries. The report says that at the current rate, it will take 155 years to close this Political Empowerment gap. Clearly, speeding up progress to increase women’s meaningful and representative participation in decision making processes is vital, both to enable women to realise their right to full and equal political participation and because women’s political leadership plays a critical role in securing and strengthening democracy. We must get more women into civic and political leadership roles, and we must promote and support women’s rights organisations and movements as a critical part of strengthening the enabling environment for women and girls’ full and equal political participation.

Since August 2021, the Taliban have imposed a series of restrictions effectively erasing women and girls from society. No other country treats its women and girls the way the Taliban do. Their decisions have no grounding in religion and will cause untold damage to the people and country of Afghanistan.

The toll on women and girls’ mental health has been huge. Afghan women self-censor for fear of reprisal, and opportunities for basic human interaction outside of their homes are being curtailed. Underpinning this, is an exclusive power sharing arrangement that excludes anyone but the Taliban from having a say on Afghanistan’s future.

Educated and empowered Afghan women would help Afghanistan by contributing to society, the economy, development and peace across the country – without this, Afghanistan will not achieve stability or prosperity.

The United Kingdom calls on the Taliban to respect international law, and uphold the human rights of all Afghans, including women and girls, and ethnic and religious minorities. We will continue to advocate for Afghan-led efforts towards inclusive governance, and remain committed to supporting the people of Afghanistan.

Turning briefly to Ukraine, and with thanks to our Ukrainian speaker, as reported by the UN, many female leaders at all levels have been spearheading the country’s humanitarian response to Russia’s illegal and premeditated invasion, joining the army or leading public service delivery. Female health workers and entrepreneurs are providing essential services and goods to the war-affected population, with women’s organisations on the ground leading humanitarian assistance, advocacy, and public outreach to support their communities.

The bravery of the women of Ukraine in the face of Russian atrocities embodies the resilience and spirit of the Ukrainian people. These mothers, daughters, sisters and protectors of Ukraine demonstrate strength, compassion and integrity in support of the defence and governance of their country, their people and their principles.

Mr Chair, as you and the Secretary General have outlined for us, we can only build a fairer, freer, and safer world if we put women and girls at the heart of the OSCE’s work. Women’s leadership, perspectives and knowledge are essential for local, national and regional progress. At the PC/FSC earlier this year we discussed the issue of Women, Peace and Security, which demonstrated that participating States remain overwhelmingly in favour of the OSCE doing more on this across our region. The UK stands ready to support.

Thank you.

Published 26 May 2023