Afghanistan Women Council (AWC) is a non-governmental, non-political, non-profit, non-sectarian Charity Organization founded in Peshawar, Pakistan to support the Afghan Refugees in 1986 by the efforts of a group of Afghan women led by Ms. Fatana Ishaq Gailani. Its aim is to assist Afghan women and children. The predominant objective of the organization is to empower women by building their capacity, improving their health, education and living conditions and by strengthening their socio-economic status in society by their multi-lateral involvement in developmental activities. AWC has worked in Afghanistan since 1992. To find out more you can visit their website.
The role of most Afghan women centers on family life. They have little financial independence and must obtain permission from their husbands or the eldest male family member to visit their own families. While educated women are able to work and have a bit more independence, they typically only hold low level positions as nurses and teachers.
Neither educated nor uneducated women hold the necessary status to have control or influence over issues within the family or in the community. Women are not considered knowledgeable enough to form opinions on important matters. Despite having the right to vote, they are expected to be take guidance from their male family members before casting their ballots.
While changes in the lives of Afghan women have been limited, many are now going to school and working in offices in Kabul and a few other cities. Due to a change in the constitution, woman can now be members of Parliament. This change was made by force and merely to show that women have more rights. This is unfair and ultimately limits the posts available to women.
These changes are not sustainable in the long term because they are changes made by force. The only way to make sustainable change is to give attention to the issue of women’s education. Most girls are only going to school through class 6 and then they get married. Once married, they are pushed into traditional roles where they lose the opportunity to progress and are denied access to many of the rights men hold.
To improve the lives of women, the constitution needs to be implemented throughout the country, security needs to improve and leaders need to be committed to bringing peace to Afghanistan. People of all ages and regions should have access to literacy classes and educational materials to decrease corruption. Women must have access to education locally and for those seeking education far from home, appropriate accommodations need to be provided so they can attend school beyond the age of maturity.
Job training and job creation for both men and women in villages is also important. If women work, men will see them as equals. If men have job opportunities they will be less likely to join the Taliban, more likely to support their families and respect their wives, helping them to develop.
Most Afghans could benefit from psychosocial counseling and intervention. The government needs to develop an awareness campaign to inform people of their rights based on religion and culture while encouraging people to respect one another, focus on educating children and take part in development activities. People need to organize at the community level to strengthen villages with the development of women’s councils, labor unions and elected village leaders that supplement the structure that was lost during the USSR supported regime.
Q&A conducted with AWC Director Ms. Fatana Ishaq Gailani.