Washington, Feb 28 : Contrary to the opinions of policymakers, women's participation in 'nation-building' plays an important role in achieving an equitable, peaceful and more prosperous society, says a new study.
Most of the policymakers and development agencies believe that a women's stronger role in nation-building "too soon" can lead to instability.
The new study by RAND Corporation, a non-profit research organization revealed that women's participation strongly elevated economic and social development of the society.
"Gender equity and women's inclusion play a central role both as a litmus test and as an active variable shaping a more democratic, stabilized and developed society," said Cheryl Benard, lead author and a senior political scientist at RAND.
During the study, researchers assessed the role of women in the recent reconstruction activities in Afghanistan and its impact on the post-conflict nation.
Women voted, signed petitions, ran for public office, were outspoken critics of corruption and the influence of warlords, served as provincial governors and ministers and joined the Afghan police force even in highly conservative provinces.
They found when Afghanistan started to embrace a new and expanded public role for women in 2002 after the fall of the Taliban, that effort encountered less pushback than critics expected
The desire among the local population for socio-economic advancement and improvements in daily life has led women and other civilians to cooperate with international security forces, at times providing information important to military endeavours.
"Incorporating women in the nation-building process as early on as possible will help make these improvements happen sooner," said Benard.
"Policymakers and development agencies have in many cases been formulating their policy -- that women's inclusion is risky and may have to be postponed -- on suppositions rather than facts.
"Survey research and opinion polls indicate that Afghans generally were supportive of women's social and economic participation, while statistical data show that gender parity and women's participation in public life are a significant contributor to stability, not a risk factor," Benard added.
The study suggests that nation builders should work to reconcile traditional values with progressive ideas involving women's participation in society.