SAARC Women’s Association Sri Lanka Chapter links with Kabul’s Sara Naouri to form a Sister Chapter in Afghanistan
The South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) Women’s Association Sri Lanka Chapter has taken a significant step after over two decades, by laying the platform to open a sister chapter in Kabul, Afghanistan, through Ms Sara Nouri, an eminent personality attached to the legal fraternity in Kabul.
Roshnie de Saram, President of the SAARC Women’s Association – Sri Lanka Chapter which is a SAARC recognized body, said that the Association is what it is today due to the diversity in leadership and accumulation of experiences through programmes which have been well received and accepted as events to look forward to, year on year for over two decades.
Roshnie recalled that Sara was initially recommended by His Excellency Air Marshal Gagan Bulathsinghala, Sri Lankan Ambassador to Kabul. Sara visited Sri Lanka recently solely intending to connect with our members to exchange ideas and to understand the modalities for the new Chapter to be established before the end of 2019, said the President. Sara who is proficient in 7 languages holds a Masters as well as a Bachelor of International and European Law LLM from the University of Groningen, Holland.
She has worked in the Hague, was the Policy Advisor to the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs, and at present serves as a legal advisor to the Ministry of Finance in Kabul and a Consultant to the Presidential Palace in Kabul amongst several other impressive positions held. She is also an entrepreneur with her legal firm HATAM & NOURI LLC, Kabul.
In a recent interview with the Daily Mirror, Sara shared her thoughts and reasons for visiting Sri Lanka. Asked why she wanted to set up a SAARC chapter in Afghanistan Sara said that although they were a landlocked country, enclosed by mountains, women in Afghanistan have the same challenges as those women anywhere else.
“It will be good for us to learn from women of the SAARC region because we’re closer in values and some very specific challenges. We’ve been neighbours for a long time, there’s a lot of international community here who wish to promote their ideas of freedom and their values. But our values and their values are different and we need to provide regional solutions to local problems,” she said.
Sara is a firm believer that women of the region should find their own solutions in facing their challenges.
“The Europeans and Americans will leave one day and it will be us left. So we have to find solutions together and we have to do it ourselves,” Sara remarked.
Through her visit to our island nation, Sara hopes to take with her to Afghanistan many positive insights which she believes would help the women of her country. “What makes me happy to see in Sri Lanka is that women from all facets of life are working and they are working hard, from what I’ve seen. My mission is to empower the women of my country by showing them that life can be different if they want to be so. I want to tell them that there is no shame in work,” Sara noted.
Elaborating further she said that men don’t take pride in the fact that women work in Afghanistan.
“In my country, work, in general, is looked down upon. I want to change this attitude. I want women in my country to learn from work ethics from the people of Sri Lanka. My stay here has been very short but I’ve seen women and men working,” she said.
“Afghanistan has come a long way, since the 18 years of foreign forces being present in our country. They have made efforts worth millions of dollars to empower women. But this “empowerment” has mostly been project-based. To be empowered they would choose topics such as women’s rights, but the practice wasn’t genuine. Because it wasn’t genuine it has never worked. There was no structural thinking behind it. Nobody genuinely wanted change and these causes were just championed by whoever wanted to be in power,” Sara observed.
According to Sara, women in Afghanistan had to start from scratch since the Taliban regime. “We have women parliamentarians and we have a woman as a Minister of mines, which is a male-dominated profession. We even have women doctors but this is only from the urban population of about 2 per cent.”
"We have women parliamentarians and we have a woman as a Minister of mines, which is a male-dominated profession. We even have women doctors but this is only from the urban population of about 2 per cent.”
Asked why her work is focused on women Sara said it’s because she is a woman and because she has similar values as all of the women in Afghanistan. “I want the women of my country to advance and progress. Without their inclusion in society, it’s not possible to achieve anything. If you marginalise 50 per cent of the society there is no way that the other 50 per cent would live in peace. I want peace for my country and peace can only be achieved through women. They are the mothers, they give life, they can decide how someone’s life course can be, so of course I believe that women are key in this process,” she exclaimed.
“Another area that we can learn from Sri Lanka is from conflict,” Sara observed. “I would like to know how Sri Lanka has dealt with peace and the aftermath of conflict. How did this change women’s lives and what steps were taken by the government and civil society to change things around? These are some of the areas that I wish to learn from,” she underscored.
Roshnie meanwhile is delighted that Sara contacted the Sri Lanka chapter for her endeavours. “Everyone at our chapter is highly taken up with Sara and the members are now rearing to visit Afghanistan when the chapter is being opened. After 23 years, this is the first time the Sri Lanka chapter is opening another chapter and our members are proud of it. We hope to open another chapter in Kathmandu as well for which our members are working very hard,” she said.
The SAARC Women’s Association holds an event each year, proceeds of which are donated to a charitable cause.
Having commenced with cultural programmes recognizing women authors, writers etc. the association has now moved on to charitable causes as required by an NGO, assisting school children to further their studies, made the life of women prisoners more comfortable, built a home for a Tsunami affected family etc., whilst not forgetting the neglected senior citizens of the