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Cablegate: View From the North: Kunduz Women Navigate

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OO RUEHPW
DE RUEHBUL #3062/01 3291241
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 241241Z NOV 08
FM AMEMBASSY KABUL
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 6228
INFO RUCNAFG/AFGHANISTAN COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RHEHAAA/NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK PRIORITY 4444
RUMICEA/USCENTCOM INTEL CEN MACDILL AFB FL PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/OSD WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 KABUL 003062

SIPDIS
SENSITIVE

DEPT FOR SCA/FO, SCA/A, DRL, GTIP, GIWI, PRM, INL
NSC FOR JWOOD
OSD FOR MCGRAW

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: KPOL PREL PHUM AF KTIP
SUBJECT: VIEW FROM THE NORTH: KUNDUZ WOMEN NAVIGATE
POSSIBILITIES AND CHALLENGES

REF: A. KABUL 3025
B. KABUL 2796

1. (SBU) SUMMARY: Women in Kunduz Province face problems
common throughout the country including illiteracy and
violence. However, many Kunduz women are free to work, are
much less covered in public than in other areas of the
country, and express satisfaction with the Afghan government.
The area is ripe for further development of women's
potential if key programs are initiated and supported, and
security does not worsen. (Reftel A)

DOWA: Illiteracy is the North's Greatest Challenge
--------------------------------------------- ----

2. (SBU) Nadira, Director of the Kunduz Department of Women's
Affairs (DOWA), estimated that only 10% of women there are
literate, and only 25% of girls attend school past sixth
grade. Family pressure to stay home and the lack of female
teachers in rural areas are the primary reasons why girls
drop out of school. She recommended more outreach programs
to men and women and particularly religious leaders
emphasizing the importance of educated women to Afghan
society as a strategy to increase girls' enrollment. She
also asked for support in conducting a public outreach
campaign to educate women on the electoral process because
most women do not have basic information about the electons
or understand the importance of voting. In addition she
advocated the use of mobile voter registration teams, without
which, she predicted, only a small percentage of Kunduz women
would register because the voter registration sites are
located too far from their villages.

3. (U) International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES)
will host the first of a series of election-focused dialogues
with female Members of Parliament on December 2. Through
these sessions IFES will provide voter registration
information and facilitate discussion of women's
participation in elections from an Islamic perspective,
emphasizing the recent fatwa issued with the support of 400
Kabul mullahs encouraging women to register and vote. IFES
also staffed an elections information booth at the First
National Women's Council of Afghanistan, held in Kabul
October 28-29, and attended by 500 women from 33 provinces.

4. (SBU) Domestic violence, early marriage, and forced
marriage are among the other challenges northern women face,
Nadira said. Families give women to other families in order
to settle a dispute or as compensation for a crime. Kunduz
Province does not have a women's shelter, which, Nadira
believes, cause many women not to approach DOWA for help
becuse they know DOWA cannot shelter them. She hosed
several girls who had run away from hom in her own house
before the police counseledher this practice was too
dangerous. Most woen who run away from home due to violence
or forced marriage end up in prison. She is working with the
Kunduz police to house these women in the children's section
of the jail in order to avoid their confinement in the same
space as older or dangerous inmates.

5. (SBU) Nadira's identification of illiteracy as the primary
problem facing Kunduz females and her focus on their lack of
civic participation as a major secondary concern contrasts
with Herat DOWA and Kabul Ministry of Women's Affairs (MOWA)
representatives' approach who mentioned violence first and
other issues such as education and voting much later in the
conversation. (Reftel B) The Kunduz DOWA did not appear
overwhelmed by cases of violence as DOWA offices in other
areas are. In the past three months the Kunduz DOWA has not
handled a single case of a woman fleeing domestic violnce or
forced marriage. Nadira's explanation that potential clients
do not come in because they know DOWA cannot offer them
shelter may be a factor. Indeed a new shelter opened in
Mazar-e-Sharif in October and reports receiving approximately
seven clients a week. It is also likely, however, that
Kunduz women are faring better than their counterparts in
other areas of the country, and thus, the potential for
advancement if educational opportunities could be expanded is

KABUL 00003062 002 OF 003


evident.

6. (SBU) Nadira is well-spoken and thoughtful and focused on
practical and specific initiatives such as asking for funding
for electoral awareness campaigns and programs to attract
female teachers to rural schools. She also recently
successfully advocated initially resistant Afghan officials
for land to build new DOWA offices.

Live from Kunduz: Five Years of Women's Radio
---------------------------------------------

7. (SBU) Najia Khudayar, Director of Radio Zuhra, said the
women-run radio station has been broadcasting for almost five
years after receiving start up assistance from Internews.
The women-focused programming includes shows centered on
women's rights under Islam, family issues such as marriage
and domestic violence, health, and legal topics.

8. (SBU) According to Khudayar, security concerns in Kunduz
are increasing. Up until a year and a half ago, the radio
staff was able to travel into districts to interview
residents, but current security concerns make that travel
impossible. The Kunduz UNAMA human rights officer also said
that worsening security conditions in recent months caused
UNAMA to suspend operations in several districts. Khudayar
is increasingly hesitant to send out female reporters and
often depends on the station's one male reporter for outside
reporting.

9. (SBU) Khudayar and her female colleague, Zarghuna Hasan,
favored expansion of local government authority, recommending
that the ANP be increased and send more police to work in
rural areas. Young people turn to violence because they are
unemployed and recruiting them as police officers would
improve security and make it harder for insurgent groups to
attract new members.

10. (SBU) Khudayar expressed satisfaction with the national
government as well, noting that she was able to get out of
her house and start her radio station, and that opportunities
for many other women increased due to support from the Karzai
administration. Interest in the upcoming election is low
compared to the 2004 and 2005 elections. Only 40%-50% of the
local populace will participate, she estimated. People that
do participate would generally vote as directed by others,
either by men for women, or by ethnic group for all, she
said. She and Hasan, however, both enthusiastically said
they planned to vote, and that the result of the election
would be meaningful for Afghanistan.

11. (SBU) Over the past several years the radio station has
become involved in several legal cases involving domestic
violence and forced marriage. In one case a girl ran away
from home in order to avoid marrying a local commander. The
commander ordered her arrest and local authorities arrested
and imprisoned her. After the girl's mother approached the
radio station, Khudayar and her colleagues worked with the
Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) to obtain
the girl's release. However, the girl was imprisoned for six
months before Afghan authorities released her. Khudayar said
another common scenario is when a man cannot afford to pay
the customary sum to his intended bride's family, the couple
runs away and often marries in Kabul or Mazar-e-Sharif. Both
the man and woman in these situations spend months in jail
when they attempt to return to Kunduz. Honor killings are
extremely unusual in the North, Khudayar claimed, because
once the local government is involved in a situation,
families fear government retribution if they were to kill
their daughter or wife.

UNAMA: Weak Rule of Law; Family Response Unit Shows Promise
but Needs More Support
--------------------------------------------- ----

12. (SBU) Gorretty Akinyi Omala, Kunduz UNAMA human rights
officer, said UNAMA received reports of 60 cases of rape of
girls aged 8-14 in Takhar Province during 2008, and the

KABUL 00003062 003 OF 003


majority of these cases were not prosecuted. The AIHRC has
also reported a sharp increase in reported cases of sexual
assault in northern Afghanistan, particularly incidents of
child rape. On a positive note, UNAMA has not received
substantiated information of cases of trafficking in persons
in the four northern provinces covered by the Kunduz office.
Kunduz German PRT political assistant, Maria Anna Puertinger,
reported that there had been a few reported cases of human
trafficking from Takhar Province across the northern border.


13. (SBU) The Kunduz Family Response Unit (FRU) mediated
several civil cases successfully by counseling disputing
parties, resulting in the parties signing an enforceable
written agreement, Omala said. The FRU, however, is not
fully supported or accepted by police leadership. The female
FRU officers could benefit from more training particularly on
how to handle criminal cases. Omala approached DynCorp
requesting this training but had not yet received a response.

WOOD

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