Women have always been targets in Afghanistan. No matter what political regime came to power, the victims were women. As a woman, in my native Afghanistan, I kept silent. I never had a chance to determine my identity. My country was one of war and women were always pushed out of the way, especially during the rule of the Taliban. I was totally invisible.
When I was in school in Afghanistan, there was not a single subject about gender equality. It was the same for boys, except they were taught that, as men, they had the power to control. Girls are taught that they are not allowed to have a voice. I always kept away from men and looked down. I covered myself up and did not try to speak. I did not question anything, either about myself or about men.
As I grew into womanhood and heard news of women beaten, abused, and burned, I became more sensitive to women’s issues. I came to have negative ideas about Afghan men because I felt they were bad people who did not understand women as human beings but as, their property. I started writing about women’s issues and supporting women’s rights. I also began to write against men.
For the past 13 years, a lot of organizations were involved in Afghanistan, to teach people about women’s rights and human rights. The main goal of these organizations were to educate women. They were trying to give women opportunities, but they forgot how involving men was also important to do so. I believe the reason violence against women is increasingly bad is because men were never taught to understand gender equality. When organizations come to Afghanistan, women received attention and men are overlooked. Men should be taught what could be accomplished if women were considered equals and we all worked together.
As women are being engaged with Feminist thought, men are left behind and do not understand women’s rights being equal to human rights. Men in Afghanistan should be encouraged to think about what feminism means and to learn that gender equality is not only about women. In my third year of college in the United States, I attended a presentation about gender equality. I realized I misunderstood feminism and it was mistranslated in my country. We had been taught that feminism, and the support of women’s rights, were Western ideas only about women. It really is about a greater understanding of human rights. If we believe women are part of society, that women have an equal role, and that women deserve the same respect as men, then yes, we are feminists. The only way to fully bring peace and prosperity to Afghanistan is by teaching men, as well as women, about real gender equality. If we can all understand it and act with that understanding, Afghanistan won’t be at such a great risk for continued conflict.