Afghan women are heroes on their own ways, never giving up even though there is endless war in their country. Women are victims of the war, and are also fighting for their rights and to gain a more visible position in their society. I am very happy to see that Afghan women are not alone in this battle. Women worldwide are holding hands to make sure their voice is heard.
The first day of my internship led me to a big event hosted by the organization Women for Afghan Women in New York City. They were celebrating the organization’s 14th anniversary.
The experience made me feel very optimistic about the future of Afghanistan. Afghan women are flourishing and playing a stronger role in the society through education. I was amazed by the activity of the organization, how much it has grown over the years, and how many positive changes it has made on the life of women in Afghanistan.
Throughout the event, guest speakers were very supportive of Afghan women and promised to continue to provide help and support. They made it clear that they do not intend to leave them part way to their goal. The speakers were well known activists and advocates, such as Swanee Hunt, a lecturer in Public Policy at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government, and founding director of the Women and Public Policy Program. Also the first lady of Afghanistan Rula Ghani spoke through Skype and she was very much supportive of Afghan women as a first lady she is a inspiration for Afghan women to stand up and her daughter was present in the event.
Other speakers included: Sunita Viswanath, the cofounder and a board member of Women for Afghan Women; Manizha Naderi, an Afghan woman who grew up in the United States and is the Executive Director of Women for Afghan Women; Tina Brown a noted journalist and author, and; American diplomat James Blair Cunningham, who once served as United States Ambassador to Afghanistan. These guest speakers have stood with Afghan women and supported them in their quest to gain their rights. With these powerful pillars of support, how could anyone not be optimistic for the future of Afghan women?
According to the introduction and video presented at the event, Women for Afghan Women works to protect vulnerable women and girls in the war-torn country. It maintains emergency and long-term shelters for victims of violence, operates legal aid centers, and conducts human rights training for law enforcement officials, religious leaders, and community members. For example, their cases include woman like Bibi Aisha, whose nose and ears was cut by her husband, and Gul Meena, a Pakistani victim of a horrific attempted “honor killing.”
There are many other similar causes Women for Afghan Women has been championing in Afghanistan, and its work is reaches across 13 provinces. One thing that made me feel inspired was that Afghan women are working with women from other countries, such as India and the United States. One of the members of the organization is Indian and has been highly dedicated in her work for the organization. Also, with the support of American women and organizations, such as Feminist Majority Foundation, Women for Afghan Women has been very successful by helping women and their work in Afghanistan. These people and activities show that Afghanistan is moving forward. Despite all the struggle and difficulty Afghan women face, an organization as strong as Women for Afghan Women will make a difference.
Positive changes are already happening now, and I strongly believe that change begins at home. According to the Khaama Press, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has decided to hire four female ambassadors to increase women’s role in government and create opportunities for Afghan women to work as ambassadors, representing the country in diplomatic offices in foreign counties. Most importantly, President Ghani has been in support of including female members for the council of high court and increasing women’s role in provincial administrations. It is significant that the President has taken decisive action to defend women’s rights in Afghanistan because, he insists, it is part of Islamic values. While meeting a number of female activists in the Presidential palace in Kabul, President Ghani said women’s rights will never be sacrificed for peace. He said that appointing women in key government positions, to include the posts of deputies and directors, will be discussed in future days of his presidency.
War in Afghanistan is like a complex puzzle. After so many years it is becoming difficult to put all the pieces together because we are forgetting that a big part of the solution is women’s education. Without it, there will be no equality of men and women and the puzzle will remain in pieces. If men and women work together, the people of
As a former journalist, I know the seduction of pursuing stories that evoke strong emotions among readers. Events that are negative or shocking are easy to write about because they invariably evoke strong emotions, often with the help of graphic photos and videos. Compellingly negative stories shouldn’t be ignored by journalists, but they can also allow us to be lazy in our writing. Bombings, murders, torture and other instances of man’s inhumanity to man very nearly write themselves, too often dismissing journalists from working at their craft. It takes a truly balanced journalist to seek out stories about common people who are working quietly to create positive changes in society, however humble, and a truly gifted journalist to write about them in ways that are both compelling and inspiring. Anyone can write about horrifying events that elicit strong emotion on face value. Only courageous journalists dare to write about small positive activities or developments without fear of being labeled “soft” or called a “tool.” Surely, women in Afghanistan are under siege, as is the society’s aspiration to achieve any measure of liberty and justice for all, and we should not divert our attention from events that reflect that truth. I’m pleased to see, however, that Ms. Amini finds encouragement in positive developments in her homeland that are, unfortunately, likely to go under-reported due to lazy or timid journalism.
The power is in numbers! As more women are educated in countries like Afghanistan the hope of change comes closer to a reality. I am encouraged that the new President of Afghanistan, Ashraf Ghani stands by the women in his family as well as the women of his country. His own wife and daughters are well educated and out spoken in their beliefs.
As American women it is our responsibility to support other women all around the world. We can not be tolerant of injustices toward women and children. These organizations need the strength of American women to show them the way. I hope to stay informed and learn of ways that I can help your country return to the time women had greater freedoms.
Ms. Amini is one small piece of the puzzle, of putting her country back together and I applaud her efforts.