Kabul, Afghanistan -- As a precursor to International Women's Day, March 8, International Security Assistance Force and the Afghanistan Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs co-hosted the Gender Integration Luncheon at ISAF Headquarters in Kabul, Afghanistan, Feb. 25.

ISAF commander Gen. John R. Allen and Afghanistan's Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs Minister Amina Afzali welcomed ambassadors and representatives from the United Nations, non-governmental agencies and Afghan ministries to acknowledge progress made in gender integration and how to continue to work together in the future.

"ISAF aims to be a partner with the Afghan people in realizing a more secure and hopeful Afghanistan… Our vision is for peace, stability, and prosperity for the Afghan people," said Gen. Allen. "We cannot speak about the future of Afghanistan without talking about half of the Afghan population: Afghan women -- and the vital role that Afghan women are playing in paving the path toward the bright future that we all seek for this great country."

Afzali passed along her gratitude to the international community and ISAF for helping bring peace to Afghanistan. She applauded the many achievements of Afghan women during the past 10 years, particularly in government and parliament. She highlighted the need for continued security in order to facilitate the involvement of women in society and government.

For Pieper Steinunn, an ISAF gender affairs advisor who helped plan the luncheon, these achievements are measurable.

"Women represent about 27 percent of the Afghan government, and were among half of those Afghans invited to the 2011 International Afghanistan Conference in Bonn, Germany" said Steinunn.

Among the luncheon's attendees was Afghan National Army Brig. Gen. Khatool Mohammadzai, the first female ANA soldier to be promoted to the rank of general officer.

"You are an emblem of the great fighting spirit of this proud nation, and you are a role model for young women and girls, not only in this country, but throughout the world," Gen. Allen told her.

Later, Mohammadzai spoke about her past and the future of Afghanistan she envisions.

Recently, ISAF and coalition countries have worked to reinforce integration of Afghan women's roles through empowering, education, job creation, maternal health and many other programs. ISAF has also been deeply involved in the training and development of female members in the Afghan National Security Force.

Gen. Allen pointed out many areas in the ANSF where woman have played a vital role. He also recognized the efforts made by Afghan Ministry of Defense and the ANSF in the last two years, pointing out that there is still more work to be done to ensure gender equality.

"We have further ground to cover, but the ANSF will become the ultimate defeat mechanism against the insurgency, and is already becoming a trusted institution of Afghan national unity," said Gen. Allen. "Whether it is in the United States, Afghanistan, or any other country, a nation can only thrive when all of its people have the opportunity to contribute."

Page last updated Wed February 29th, 2012 at 00:00