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Tuesday, 4 December, 2001, 12:03 GMT
Afghan women want their voices heard
Women in Kabul
Many women are still sceptical about the future
Afghan women's leaders are meeting in the Belgian capital Brussels for a two-day summit on the future of Afghanistan.

Around 40 Afghan women have travelled to the meeting which is being organised by women's rights groups from Europe and the US to ensure that women's voices are heard in the negotiations to bring peace to the war-torn country.

Sima Wali at the Bonn talks
Sima Wali is one of just three female delegates at the Bonn talks
Some have come straight from Bonn where Afghan delegates are trying to hammer out a deal for future power-sharing.

However, only a handful of women are taking part in the talks in Germany.

The EU's Social Affairs Commissioner, Anna Diamantopoulou, said: "Afghan women make up more than half of the Afghan population, so it would be a folly to try to rebuild the country without proper representation of women."

Fears about the future

In Afghanistan itself, many women are not yet sure that the collapse of the Taleban will bring freedom for them.

"The Northern Alliance's victory was good news for all Afghan women but I have fears about the future", says Jamila Mujahed, whose voice was heard symbolically reading the news on Radio Afghanistan just hours after the alliance's troops marched into Kabul last month.

Many of the women who have travelled to the Brussels conference have risked their lives under the Taleban regime to defend the rights of women in Afghanistan to work, to be educated and to live without fear of persecution.

Now, they want women to play a part in any future solution for their country.

Among those at the women's summit are teachers, doctors and political activists.

Many have made the difficult journey from Afghanistan itself, others have been living outside the region waiting to return to their country.

Prominent guests

The women come from a variety of different ethnic and religious backgrounds and the summit is intended to provide a safe place for free debate.

The hope is that the delegates will find broad agreement on how they might be involved in furture Afghan decision-making.

Prominent women from around the world, like United Nations High Commissioner Mary Robinson, have been invited to join the discussions.

In the following weeks a delegation of Afghan women from the summit is expected to meet US Secretary of State Colin Powell and members of the UN Security Council.

See also:

23 Nov 01 | South Asia
Afghan women to attend talks
27 Nov 01 | South Asia
Kabul women's march thwarted
24 Nov 01 | South Asia
Kabul women keep the veil
23 Nov 01 | South Asia
Afghan women enjoy their freedom
20 Nov 01 | South Asia
Afghan women shed their burqas
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