Fereshteh Forough is a founding partner of the Afghan Citadel Software Company (ACSC). Currently she is working as the Central and South Asia Liaison for Citadel of New York and Film Annex based in New York City. She is the main writer for An Afghan Perspective on 60 Minutes page in Film Annex. She is responsible for Women’s Annex and Afghan Development Platforms. She joined a two-year Masters program at the Technical University in Berlin. She got her Masters in 2010 in Database Engineering.
Afghanistan is a traditional country with an old history. Women have always played a very important role the society through decades, like Malalai Meyvandi during the Afghan-England war. However, they spent their darkest time during the Taliban regime. Since they started the new government a decade ago, women now take part in social activities, although there are many people arguing against women’s presence the society.
Most of Afghan women stay home to be a housewife and also take care of their children, especially in rural areas and villages. Being a wise mother who can train her children is really valuable and requires many sacrifices. On the other hand, there are women who study and work, while they are facing many challenges. But compared to years ago, there is a considerable growth of women’s participation in many aspects like in education, politics, economy, health, arts, etc.
I cannot speak generally about all women in Afghanistan because, unfortunately, the positive changes are just happening in some big cities and the remote areas and villages are still suffering from a lack of standard social facilities, and there is still violence against women there. I can talk about the education of women, especially in the recent years. A considerable amount of girls, especially in big cities, are involved in the educational system, such as schools and universities. But being a city girl does not mean having access to safe education.
There are still people who are against educating women and who threaten girls badly by pouring acid on their faces for examples while on their way to school and by poisoning schools to prevent them from going. There are also families who think that education is not for girls and that they have to stay home and do housework.
I think workshops, seminars and awareness programs via mediums like TV, Radio and newspapers have to target families to help them get the right decision for their children, especially girls. For me, public awareness is really important because ignorance is the main enemy of education and development.
Afghan women face numerous problems every day. In district areas and urban places, they suffer from a lack of good health conditions. There are no special health care centres for women and they don’t have enough skilled female doctors and nurses. Therefore, they will use traditional ways, especially when they are going to give birth, and unfortunately, it will lead to an increased death rate of women.
Regarding education, most of the time there is not even a class for girls, because there are no female teachers in the area and families don’t let male teachers teach girls. And in families, which are always male dominated, most of the time they have to marry the person whom their father and brother selected.
Women don’t know their rights because they are not aware of them. No one will try to focus on those areas. NGOs and other organizations that are going to help women mostly focus on cities. Women in rural places need more attention and support because Afghanistan is mainly a traditional country where a huge number of people live in villages and rural places, because their main income comes from Agriculture and their livestock. They can’t move to the city because there are no job opportunities for them there to support a family with more than five children.
Both women and men need to be changed to ensure equality; it is not only a process for men. Women also have to change their attitudes towards their female colleague and learn how to support rather than to criticize and putting them down. For men they have to believe on women’s skills and abilities and trust working with them, they should look at empowering women in way to share the duties and responsibility and build a trustful relationship which lead their society for a better future. On the other hand, women can understand each other well, as they share the same experiences and feelings while they are working outside of their home. They should support each other by establishing workshops, seminars, and educational courses.
I can say nothing is impossible and the word impossible says “I am possible”. It is a fact that women in rural places are less educated than those who live in cities but most of them produce handy craft products at home. You can find a considerable amount of art works in carpet weaving, embroidery, production of textiles and many other impressive handy works. The problem is that they do not have a financial support to go to the market and compete with others or even show their products outside of their living area. Those are the valuable resources for Afghanistan because they keep our culture alive and only women can do that at home. The government and any other women organizations should think about that because it is the safest and easiest way to involve women in rural places in social activities and have their families be happy with the results.
Afghan women are courageous, talented and patient. It is time for them to get what they have fought for many years ago. I wish that one day, every single Afghan girl and woman have a real smile on their face when they see their dreams come true.
Watch Fereshteh discussing Afghanistan Here.