Rahatgul.Takoor. is a student at Kabul University where he is studying English language and literature. He is currently an afghan student taking part in the Pax Populi teaching Program in Afghanistan. He also works as a translator for ACSOR (Afghan Center for Socio-Economic and Opinion Research).
As we all know Afghan women suffered many troubles in the last three decades. Women in Afghanistan were not allowed to do a single and tiny thing for the improvement of society. The doors of schools towards them were tied by steel chains. They stayed in their houses as if they were in prison or jail. After the Taliban were dethroned, women were provided with opportunity to work in the community and side with the men in the improvement of society.
We now see Afghan women playing different roles in Afghan Society. Some women who live in secure areas study in schools, university and take part in different aspects of society. They take part in and are recruited to the offices of the government. They are permitted to work outside their houses. They play role in maintaining peace. There are also some private and women-related organizations supporting peace maintenance programs.
Girls and women, especially students, teachers, writers and professors, send their message to the people of the society through written messages and by publishing articles. They work both as stay-at-home mothers and outside the house.
Women have seen positive changes they are now provided with the opportunity to study in school and university. The doors of school are open for them. They can work everywhere side-by-side with men. In those families that do not have male supporters, women acquired vocations in some of the organizations funded and sponsored by the foreign donors. They can feed and handle expenditures for their children’s schools and other life aspects.
As I see, especially in the Kabul, women have access to any facility if they want, including traveling from one area to another by themselves. There is no threat for them according to security. Girls can be educated in peace side by side with boys in schools and universities. As men participate in any kind of gathering, women also have the same rights to do so.
Women have the freedom of expressing ideas, including on TV, on the radio, and in other public gathering. In the past, they were not allowed to go out of their houses without a family member. In the present time, they have the freedom of movement. They have the facility to travel securely.
In the past, there were no female doctors in any clinic or hospital, as far as I learned from the interviews that I translated for the ACSOR (Afghans Center for Socio-Economics and Opinion Research). These interviews are done with people of different backgrounds. They were not allowed to be treated and sent to a clinic or hospital. These opportunities were not only provided for the women living in Kabul or other big cities of the country, but it is the same for women living in rural areas.
However, there are still some setbacks and obstacles for women. For sustaining these opportunities provided too women and the positive changes there have been for women, we need to encourage people, especially in rural areas, to make women take part in the improvement of society and attend school and work side by side with men. People in rural areas should be provided with facilities, like schools, courses, and universities.
In most of the rural areas, people suffer from the lack electricity. As we know, electricity is the means of improvement. People use solar power, but most of the people are poor and their income is insufficient to purchase solar power and use it as electricity. I think if the security situation is maintained, people will be enticed and persuaded to attend school. If they are provided with electricity, especially in rural areas, women will also be provided with the opportunity to get educated and join together with men to work for the improvement of the country.
In spite of these improvements in Afghanistan, there are many threats for Afghan women. Firstly, for educated urban women there are some specific threats. When they graduate from university, they are faced with the lack of jobs. Women, in general, are not safe in most areas. Female teachers and students are threatened usually by Taliban and other opposition groups. It is common for all categories of women. According to one report, a female teacher got a letter from Taliban. It was written to tell her to stop working. She was told that if she did not stop, she will be killed in a way so severe that no woman has been killed before in that manner. If this news spread in an area, all women will abandon working and teaching.
Another threat is again from the side of Taliban and other opposition groups. That is the acid attacks done by them on women. This kind of attack not only takes a woman’s beauty, but severely ruins a woman’s life forever. If women are attacked like this, no woman would dare to go out of their house to become educated or go for welfare money for their children. These kinds of attacks are usually in rural areas, but sometimes they happen in urban areas. Nevertheless, those girls who attend schools get poor education owing to lack of female teachers and basic supplies. The Taliban and other insurgent groups, have also, set fire to dozens of schools, threatened teachers and even attacked schoolgirls in rural areas.
Another issue is the poverty of people, including in urban and rural areas. Families are needy and constrained to bring their children for carrying out hard physical work to find money. These people have no other alternative to follow. Those women, who have no male supporters, both make themselves and their children go out and gain money. It is not a matter of which approach they seek. These children, then, are abused and exploited by other people, and women are working as midwives in other people’s households. Children are left behind to get educated. They are interested to study in schools, pass their childhood in relaxation and receive the love of their parents and family and love their teacher in school, but the opportunity is not provided for them due to a poor economy and the non-existence of family financial supporters.
I think all issues turn back to the security situation in our country. From translating interviews done with people in different areas, especially in southern areas of Afghanistan which are insecure, people in the areas where the security situation improved were satisfied with their lives. They could continue to live a life at ease. They believe it is security that brings about positive changes in every aspect of people’s lives, and I also trust this idea.
Another thing that needs to be changed is the worn-out beliefs of people about women and their lifestyle, that they should not study in school, but rather stay in the house with locked doors, and have no participation in community improvement and working outside. In addition, maintaining peace can also be useful for bringing changes in sustaining the equality between men and women and empowering human rights. People, especially urban and rural area women should be trained in different kinds of vocations to support themselves and their children. They all should be provided with security.
The government and other outside charity organizations should establish courses for becoming literate and courses for women who have no financial supporter, to acquire vocational training. For girls, in every two villages, a school should be established. People would then allow girls to attend schools because they would be closer to their area. Female students in schools should be provided with female teachers. Many people do not let their daughters and sisters go to school because there is a lack of female teachers. The government should handle books on time for them and supply girls with basic school supplies.
The government and other agencies and organizations should hold seminars or workshops for people in different rural areas all over the country about the importance of knowledge and the key role women play in the development of a country. People should be encouraged and enticed with the importance of women working, through which not only can a family be supported, but all the people in the country can benefit. Afghan women and all people need backup and support in the U.S, the U.K and worldwide.