Fatima Rabbani, is an Afghan national, a peace activist and the daughter of a former Afghan president. She holds a Bachelor of Arts from the American University of Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates in Journalism and Political Science. And further holds an Msc in State, Society and Development from SOAS. She has worked for three years for Bates Pangulf Advertising in Dubai doing political advertising for Iraq and Afghanistan – projects and campaigns on reconciliation, highlighting the urgency of citizenship and active engagement in both countries.
Over the last decade, the roles of Afghan women have changed drastically and positively. Today, women in Afghanistan are not only house makers but also play an influential role in the Afghan society. Afghan women have become actively involved in public life, as more and more women have adapted to basic changes that have been provided to them.
There have been positive changes among women in Afghanistan. Girls and women are now an important part of the society and participate in all sectors. However to ensure this change is sustainable the key to breaking into a society like the one in Afghanistan is to make sure that the changes imposed or encouraged are changes that are embraced by the Afghans themselves. “Liberating” an individual may have a different meaning to different people. Therefore if we try and understand the core problems in an Afghan society through the Afghan lens, only then can changes be sustainable.
Most of the positive changes have taken place in the lives of the urban Afghan women, there is still a lot more to be done for the women who live in the rural areas of Afghanistan which tend to be the majority of the population. The lack of security also remains the biggest threat to Afghan women both in the urban and rural areas. In order for women to feel completely free to practice the basic rights provided to them, security must be improved. Breaking into the barriers of traditions is another challenge for the women in Afghanistan.
Afghan society is one where religion and tradition plays an integral part in the lives of its people. In order to change attitudes of people, we need to be very careful as to not try and encourage people to drift away from their religion/traditions as this approach may have undesirable results.
In addition to women, the men in Afghanistan need to be educated on the importance of women’s rights. Because Afghanistan remains a male dominated country, where the men in any household are usually the decision makers, these male figures i.e. fathers, brothers, husbands etc also need to be informed about the importance of their girls going to school, university, going to work and so on.
One of the ways the attitudes of men in the society can be changed is if someone (preferably an Afghan) can reach out and connect to these individuals at a personal level giving examples from the Qura’an and about the equality of men and women mentioned. It is also imperative to keep in mind that most of these men are uneducated as well so developing the right approach will be key. It is also important that men be informed about the importance of educating women and how this leads to the development of a country/society. Because mothers raise the next generation and if these mothers are educated, they will encourage their kids to seek education as well.
An important African proverb I go by, “Educate a man, you educate an individual; educate a woman, you educate a nation.”