Editor’s Note: Today is International Women’s Day and around the world women and men are recognizing and celebrating the vitally important contributions of women in every society. And while this celebration is significant globally, perhaps nowhere is it more important to honor women than in Afghanistan. Facing tremendous adversity, they are the unsung heroes struggling without public recognition to build a new country, child by child, home by home, school by school, business by business, and community by community. According to a widely quoted 2011 Thompson-Reuters study, Afghanistan is the most dangerous place in the world for women. That is a sad reality, but there is another story that is too often overlooked— it is the story of women standing up and actively taking a role in the creation of a new country. It is a story that flows from the heart of hope as we witness the slow painful birth of the new, peaceful, and beautiful Afghanistan.
In celebration of International Women’s Day, we at Pax Populi decided to pay special tribute to the strong and remarkable women of Afghanistan. To do so, through our Facebook page, we invited women from Afghanistan, the Afghan diaspora, and people around the world to submit written pieces on the place of women in Afghan society. Before long, we received so much material that it didn’t make sense to limit our focus to one day only. Instead, therefore, we decided to celebrate Afghan women by posting new materials we received every day for a week.
To begin, we have compiled many of these new materials and posted them on the newly created page, “Be Inspired.” Please take a look.
On our home page, we start our series in honor of the women of Afghanistan by posting a group of short essays by students at our esteemed partner organization, the School of Leadership Afghanistan (SOLA). SOLA is a school in Afghanistan that prepares young women to study in some of the finest schools in the United States. Since 2010, Pax Populi has had the privilege of working closely with SOLA both by bringing one of its students, Shogofa, to study in an American university and by working with SOLA students through our Pax Populi Tutoring Services program. I have no doubt that many of the young women of SOLA will make significant contributions to their country. To learn more about SOLA, please click here. Let us now begin by hearing what these intelligent, brave, and dedicated young women have to say….
And, please remember to come back tomorrow for additional installments in our series, “Honoring the Women of Afghanistan.”
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The Value of Girls
Afghanistan is a traditional country where roles are based on religious rules and traditions, and these traditional rules are transferred from generation to generation. In this kind of society, rules and traditions dictate what people should value and respect.
In Afghan society, traditions work against girls; girls do not have any value at all. If a woman gives birth to a girl, it is like a crime; sometimes it causes the woman’s husband to marry another wife.
For example, in my own family, my mother gave birth to three girls back to back. Our relatives were saying to my father, “You should marry a second wife.” But my father stood against those wrong traditions and said, “I am proud of my daughters and no one can say anything wrong about my daughters and my wife.”
I hope that one day each Afghan stands up against these old and very wrong traditions and knows the value of girls, just as my father does!
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The Right to Study
Women are strong. Women make Afghanistan. They give birth. They create life. If women were not here, we would not be here. If my mother was not in the world, my brother, my sisters and I would not be here.
Women’s positions are high. They are good workers for our country. They fight for our country. So we should be happy, and we should not say women are bad or that we should hit them. We should not disturb women or girls when they are going somewhere.
We should be happy whatever women do. We should be proud of them, and we should not be hopeless. I wish for Afghan women to develop more and more until they become good leaders for Afghanistan. Women can be good leaders if they study. They can teach, and they can make their families happy. They have the right to study! I wish all women would be allowed to study.
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This New Generation of Women
My dream for Afghanistan is that Afghanistan becomes an improved country. Men and women in Afghanistan do not have equal rights. Every woman deserves to have equal rights!
Many women have to stay at home because women cannot go anywhere without the permission of their husbands. That said, women are not allowed to go outside for work.
If we see our society and our country, we can see a lot of women in Afghanistan are educated. But a small minority of women is able to go outside to work. Some of them are teachers, some are doctors, and some are nurses.
But a majority of women do not have the opportunity to work outside the home. This new generation wants to celebrate International Women’s Day. We want women in all the world — especially in Afghanistan — to have equal rights.
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From Impossible to Possible
Afghanistan is a country without respect for or attention to women. Women are in a bad situation. For example, they can’t go outside without permission, and also they don’t have that much opportunity to show their talents, or go to a foreign country to get a better education. However, in spite of all these problems we should be optimistic about women’s future in Afghanistan and remove this stifling situation.
I hope that one day a girl from Afghanistan can go to space and discover new things that no one has found yet. Maybe a girl from Afghanistan can make a robot that can make life more comfortable for humans. Actually, now women in Afghanistan have many arts like handicrafts, but this is the only way that women can earn money for themselves.
Secondly, I hope that one day women can be powerful judges in court, because in Afghanistan there is nobody to judge honestly about women. Sometimes judges think that women are criminals, even though they are not, and they will give women some terrible punishments that are out of regulation.
In conclusion, I want to say that we should be optimistic about women’s future and always encourage them to try hard and change all those impossibilities to possibilities and never let anyone misuse women’s rights.
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A Cruel System for Women
The system for women is bad in Afghanistan. Girls can’t go to school because first, their parents don’t let them to go to school. Second, they don’t have a safe environment, and people disturb them on their way to school. Third, we don’t have good schools to study in, and the method of teaching is bad in Afghanistan. In Afghanistan women are supposed to have a man with them, because people in Afghanistan think that women are very weak when they do not have a man with them.
Laws often work against Afghan women. If a woman has a case in court, the laws don’t help her without a man. For example, my mom has a case to take her inheritance from my uncles, but because my father has died and my mom doesn’t have a man with her, the laws don’t help her in her court case. Even when the laws do not deny a woman her rights, men use the power they have to keep women from getting the power they deserve. My uncles give bribes to the government in order to keep my mom from getting her inheritance.
I have a dream that the government will give women their inheritances. My second dream is that women will work in government because having more compassion in the government will help eliminate the cruelty that exists in the system now.
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Girls Known by Their Own Names
Today I write as an Afghan girl who does not want the next generation to face gender discrimination as she does today. This girl feels that Afghanistan cannot improve while Afghan society does not give girls the same opportunity as boys. She hopes that one day her dream will become real. She dreams that a girl will be able to live independently, make decisions about her future and be known by her name. Girls will support themselves with their own income, hard work and education. They will feel that they exist separately from the men around them and be able to count on themselves. I hope one day girls will be educated enough to be aware of their rights in order to stand against society’s challenges and take their rights. They will know that their rights are not given to them as a gift.
I wish one day girls will decide about their lives and not give this right to other people, as is usual in Afghan society. Sometimes they cannot decide about some personal things because they have already been decided for them by traditions. For example, if today I wear long clothes or a scarf, it is because if I do not do this, my family will not let me go to school or do other activities. This happens to girls all the time. If this small decision leads to problems, think of the problems surrounding big decisions!
I have a dream that one day girls will be known by their own names, not as daughters, wives and sisters of so-and-so. For example, my name is Sakina, but my relatives know me by my father’s name. Worse than that, sometimes people use derogatory names like Siah-sar and Koch. This is the situation. We see it every day, but still we cannot stop it. I wish one day girls will have the ability to change this situation.
In conclusion, I hope my dreams become real. I will see Afghan girls live independently, make decisions about their lives and be known by their names. However, it will be difficult to change these bad traditions that rule the society. But by following the path of the women all over the world who stood against those traditions and rules that ignored women rights, we can change the situation.