Press Release | Women should “never give up” leading peace efforts in Ukraine and Afghanistan, says Friends of Europe panel

Press Releases

10 March, Brussels – The Ukrainian First Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs, Emine Dzhaparova, said that women leading peace efforts need to be “brave and invincible” today, during a panel discussion held by Friends of Europe in Brussels on Thursday.

“Their lesson is that you should never give up,” Dzhaparova stressed. “That is something that people are living with, still having the hope that Ukraine will liberate Crimea.”

This was seconded by the former Mayor of Maidan Shahr and Founder of Assistance and Promotion for Afghan Women Organisation (APAW), Zarifa Ghafari, who noted that “the fight around Afghanistan is all led by women.”

Ghafari highlighted the efforts of activists on 8 March – International Women’s Day – where “more than 20 provinces [of Afghanistan] had girls and women coming into street and asking for rights.”

“The fight now is being led by women,” said the former mayor of Maidan Shahr, “fighting to develop the country and build a better future.”

The rock star panel took place as part of the think-tank’s European Young Leaders (EYL40) seminar Is Europe Alice in Wonderland? The plenary focused on reconsidering and redefining the role of women in peace and security.

Using Northern Ireland as an example, the moderator, Mary Fitzgerald, Non-resident scholar at the Middle East Institute, said, “The more women are involved in peace processes the more sustainable those processes turn out to be.”

Emphasising the role women need to play in the Russia-Ukraine War, Dhzaparova said, “Our motto of every single Ukrainian woman is that everything is possible. The moment and history are in our hands.”

Feminist NATO

The conversation turned towards the disproportionate effects conflict has imposed on woman. Another panelist, Irene Fellin, NATO Secretary General’s Special Representative for Women, Peace and Security, addressed the elephant in the room by saying “This is a very male-dominated environment; it is a cultural challenge that you have to focus on every day.”

When questioned what a feminist NATO could do, Fellin answered: “[NATO] integrates a gender perspective into everything we do. 2022 Strategic Concept includes reference for first time, need to advance gender as part of common values.”

In the aftermath of the US withdrawal from Afghanistan in mid-2021, the sense on-the-ground has been a feeling of abandonment by Western powers.

Zarifa touched upon the issue: “It’s not just ‘abandoned.’ They just blew a great hole of fire and threw us in the fire to burn there. And they closed the door. It is not just abandoned, it is just destroying our country.”

Dzhaparova noted that in Ukraine while celebrations took place on March 8 to mark International Women’s Day, 81 missile attacks left five dead and six injured. “This was a very special International Women’s Day…Freedom is not something that is abstract, people are dying for it.”

“Whenever conflict comes, women and men are suffering differently because they are different.”

The Deputy Foreign Minister went onto say that “If you have this strong spirit, even physical torture cannot break you.”

International Women’s Day was held on 8 March. As described by Friends of Europe, “#Womanity is an opportunity to redefine what it is that women and girls can contribute to social progress and equality.”

This EYL40 Seminar is held in Brussels from 9 – 11 March as Brussels is central to the European response on the Russia-Ukraine War. The title of the seminar, ‘Is Europe Alice in Wonderland?’, is inspired by the Alice in Wonderland syndrome. Like Alice, the Seminar asks whether Europe suffers from distorted perceptions at a time when the Union’s founding values are being questioned.

Led by Friends of Europe, each year the European Young Leaders programme brings together talented, established leaders, aged 40 and under, who have made their mark in a wide range of fields such as politics, science, business, media, NGOs, the arts and civil society.




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For more information please contact Seán Flynn, Press Officer at Friends of Europe below:

Seán Flynn | Press Officer

Friends of Europe

+353 86 064 4317


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