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International Women’s Day: The Status of Afghan Women

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Along with other members of the international community, Afghanistan is celebrating the auspicious International Women’s Day with special events and ceremonies. This day is much more important for Afghanistan as the Afghan women are battling for their rights along with the government and other progressive groups of the society. Human rights organizations and women activists bear the brunt the campaign against the extremist groups and in the deeply conservative society. In different countries around the world, the focus of marking the day varies from general celebration of respect and appreciation towards women through organizing ceremonies and events to a celebration for women’s economic, political and social achievements.

In Afghanistan, the event is not just a celebration of women’s rights and achievements, but it is a day for making commitments in the campaign for promoting women’s rights and their status of life conditions. The women of Afghanistan are the most vulnerable part of the society, as they have been suffering from the widespread violence and the attitude of the society towards the women. There is widespread violence against women in the society, public places and most importantly in the families. The women are exposed to misbehaviors and even persecutions and even tortures and beatings. Time and again, there are reports of violence against women by mostly male family members particularly husbands.

Of course, the situation has much improved in recent years but there is a long way to reach the goal of a free-violence society for women. While there were almost a-zero percent of girls in school during the Taliban era, there are now millions of girls going to schools and universities, which virtually would change their life as well as the attitude of the society and their families towards them. The women of Afghanistan were fully banned from working outside and in public services and were forced to stay indoors. They were forced to be accompanied by a male relative when going out, for example for visiting relatives or shopping.

Today, there are women singers in the media, women teachers at schools and universities and women lawmakers in the parliament. This is a clear sign of what is going on in Afghan still-conservative society. The fact that millions of girls are going to universities is indicating that the country is changing, though not at a fast pace, but is moving to the right direction. All the events and developments are indication of change for the women and that the deeply conservative society is opening up for embracing new values and standards of life values for the women.

It must be acknowledged that the policies and strategies of the government towards promoting rights of the women have been effective somehow, as the government institutions have supported the media, human rights organizations, women activists and other groups. But the government’s part in the campaign has been inefficient. In past twelve years the government of Afghanistan has struggled to take symbolic measures such as organizing seminars and granting women limited government posts. These policies have just helped to encourage other groups in the society to step in for fighting for the cause of women’s rights. But the government’s campaign, in itself, has not been much effective to directly impact the status and rights of the women.

In addition to the symbolic seminars and superficial measures, there are more to be done to improve the rights of women and status of their life conditions. The government of Afghanistan can shift from direct but inefficient measures for supporting the women to indirect methods for supporting the supporters of this vulnerable segment of the Afghan society. Arguably, if the government takes bold policies for supporting the advocators of women and human rights, it would substantially boost the campaign of fighting for women’s rights and dignity. The government should support media, human rights organizations, activists, and organize specific programs in schools and universities.

Public awareness campaign for promoting rights of the women has been the most important driver of the changes made and the achievements made so far. But it has not been carried out with potent momentum which could all parts of the society. Public awareness gradually changes the conservative mood of the society and makes it ready for embracing the new way of life and accepting a new set of rights for the women.

In order to carry out such public awareness for the rights of the women, general education is the key. By generalizing education to all cities and far corners of the country, and to all parts of society, the government of Afghanistan will be able to fight conservatism. In addition to all these, the women must be actively involved in the campaign as it gives them a voice and the energy to make their voice heard. In the course of transformation, Afghanistan needs to hear the voices of the women. We need to embrace change in all areas of life, particularly rights and conditions of the Afghan women.

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