The Taliban’s return to power has raised fears about hard-won rights for Afghan women and girls over the last two decades. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), a senior member of the Senate Armed Services and Foreign Relations Committees, and Najla Ayoubi, chief of global programs at Every Woman Treaty and a former Afghan judge, join Washington Post Live to discuss the future for women in the country.


The former Afghan judge said the Taliban inside Kabul are seizing upon international attention to promote a more progressive image, but stories from outside the city suggest they’re still acting brutally. “We have to distinguish between the Taliban in Kabul and also the Taliban out of Kabul. So in Kabul probably we see some of the I’m not saying positive sign but these are… how their PR is working, how they work to show to the international community. At the same time… unfortunately these chilling stories are coming.” (Washington Post Live)
The senator from New Hampshire added that she does not have “any assurances” that the plight of Afghan women “are being listened to” by the administration. “I have not had a chance to speak with President Biden and I don’t know that we have any assurances that our messages are being listened to.” (Washington Post Live)
The senator said the United States’ commitment to refugees must go beyond getting them ‘out of harm’s way.’ “It’s not good enough to have them out of harm’s way. We also need to see that they are some place where they can reestablish themselves and become permanent members of the community.” (Washington Post Live)
The Senator added that U.S. presence brought opportunity to women and girls, and improved the healthcare and the school systems. “We originally went into Afghanistan to try and prevent the freedom of terrorist groups to operate and attack the United States. I think most people would agree that that mission has been accomplished, at least for the last 20 years. And there were a number of other benefits for people in Afghanistan that happened because of the United States and other NATO countries’ involvement ¬– healthcare, the school system, the ability of women and girls to pursue their dreams and opportunities.” (Washington Post Live)
The senator also emphasized protecting women’s human rights is ”what’s important for the future of Afghanistan” “Ensuring that women have those opportunities, that human rights are protected for women isn’t just about doing the right thing… it’s doing about what’s important for the future of Afghanistan and other countries where women have not been empowered. And we know, data shows that when women are at the table when negotiating an end to conflict, that those negotiations last longer – 35 percent longer.” (Washington Post Live)

Judge Najla Ayoubi

Provided by Every Woman Treaty.

Najla Ayoubi, Chief of Coalition & Global Programs at Every Woman Treaty, is a lawyer and former judge and has extensive experience in judiciary, elections, human rights and women’s empowerment. She is a civil society and women / human rights activist. She served as a Legal Advisor for the State Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs of Afghanistan, Commissioner at the Independent Election Commission of Afghanistan and Commissioner of Joint Electoral Management Body.

Judge Ayoubi played a great role in Constitution making process of Afghanistan. She was the Senior State Attorney at the Attorney General Office of Afghanistan, State Attorney of the Parwan province, and Judge at the Parwan Provincial Court. She worked with The Asia Foundation Afghanistan in different capacities. She served as a Board Member of Open Society Afghanistan as well as the Country Director of Open Society Afghanistan (OSF representative office in Afghanistan). She was Board member of Afghan Women’s Network (AWN), Afghanistan Research & Evaluation Unit (AREU) Member of Board of Directors, Advisory Board Member of Afghan Education Production Organization(AEPO), Co-Chair of Board in Afghanistan Institute for Civil Society (AICS ), and Member of the Board of Trustees at Afghan Professional Network.

Ms. Ayoubi has two MA degrees: one on Law and Politics from State University of Tajikistan and another on Post War Recovery and Development Studies from York University of United Kingdom. She is former Deputy Country Representative of The Asia Foundation, Afghanistan Office.

Judge Ayoubi has also been appointed as the 2015 Women Peacemaker at the Kroc Institute for Peace and Justice at the University of San Diego United State and spring 2017 Visiting Fellow at the University of Chicago Institute of Politics. She is a Founding & Global Executive Board Member of Women’s Regional Network (WRN) and served as a Consultant and member of South Bay Professional Association, Los Angeles California.

Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.)

The first woman in U.S. history to be elected both a Governor and a United States Senator, New Hampshire’s Jeanne Shaheen is a trailblazer. She has served in the Senate since 2009 and is a member of the Senate Committees on Foreign Relations, Armed Services, Appropriations, Small Business and Entrepreneurship and the Select Committee on Ethics. As a senior member – and only woman – on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC), she serves as chair of the SFRC Europe and Regional Security Cooperation Subcommittee where she advocates for a strong foreign policy that confronts our enemies, strengthens key alliances and empowers women and girls around the world. Shaheen has led action in the Senate on behalf of bolstering women’s roles in peace negotiations and conflict resolution, and specifically in support of Afghan women. She is also the Senate lead on efforts to improve the Afghan SIV program to assist Afghan allies who served beside U.S. forces on the battlefield.