NEW DELHI: Following the Afghan unity deal between rival candidates Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah after months of political wrangling, Jalal Foundation, an Afghan women-led and women-focused organisation headed by former minister Massouda Jalal has issued a statement on strengthening the women’s agenda in the to-be newly formed national unity government.

The statement reads:

On behalf of the 50 women NGOs and women’s councils throughout Afghanistan that are members of the Jalal Foundation network, we articulate our concerns and sentiments in regard to the resolution of the political impasse in Afghanistan and the recent signing of the National Unity Government Agreement by President Ashraf Ghani and Mr. Abdullah Abdullah.

We sincerely commend the efforts of the United States government and the United Nations in facilitating the resolution of our political impasse, thereby averting an imminent escalation of civil turmoil. Undeniably, the leadership and skillful diplomacy of US Secretary of State John Kerry and UN Special Representative of the Secretary General Jan Kubis played a big role in facilitating a peaceful, and hopefully, workable solution to the political crisis. We acknowledge their important interventions as we also thank President Ghani and Mr. Abdullah for setting aside their differences and agreeing to collaborate under the National Unity Government framework.

We trust the honorable new President of our country and his teammate, Mr. Abdullah, will not need foreign interventions again they wade through the thick jungle of issues that have to be sorted out, especially after the departure of NATO and the reduction of international development assistance to Afghanistan. We expect them to act like matured statesmen so that the well-being of the Afghan people may not be held hostage again by their differences.

More importantly, we want to raise our serious concern over the lack of transparency and consultation with women in regard to the substantive provisions of the National Unity Government Agreement that was signed between President Ashraf Ghani and Mr. Abdullah Abdullah. While the Afghan population hail the peaceful completion of the electoral process, many Afghans are very unhappy that the negotiations on the framework of the National Unity Government had been kept under wraps, leaving us in a quandary over what kind of leadership we will deal with in the next five years. We need not reiterate that President Ghani and Mr. Abdullah have a sacred obligation to be transparent and truthful in their manner of governing the affairs of the country.

Likewise, we remain vigilant over any possibility of marginalizing again the women’s agenda under the new government. During the election campaign, President Ashraf Ghani and Mr. Abdullah Abdullah both promised to uplift the status of the women population. However, both of them had also left the women out of the information and consultation loops while negotiating on the provisions of the National Unity Government agreement. We trust that our new President will not sustain the marginalization of women that his predecessor did in his 13 years of leadership.

We wish to communicate to President Ashraf Ghani and Mr. Abdullah Abdullah that the women’s sector expect no less than the fulfillment of their election promises. While we are extremely delighted over the news that he will appoint women justices to the Supreme Court, we also expect that at least 30 percent of his Cabinet will be composed of women. Furthermore, we call upon them to immediately convene a dialogue with women leaders of the country to define the agenda that the new government will adopt to empower women and attain gender equality. As in the past, our network and the women’s sector are ready to support this government in the pursuit of enduring peace, democracy and gender equality. May Allah bless our new President and give him strength, wisdom, good health and a clean heart to lead his country to peace and progress.