Shuja Rabbani is an Afghan national; he is one of the many young expatriates that have helped establish a culture of cooperation and understanding in the new Afghanistan through his experiences in other countries, all the while embracing the challenges and differences within Afghanistan. Shuja’s journey in Afghanistan first began when he was offered an opportunity to work with the United Nations Development Programme’s (UNDP) project titled “Afghanistan New Beginnings Programme” in Kabul. You can find out more about Shuja by visiting his webpage.
Women in Afghanistan play many different roles. First, as a country that has not been providing opportunities for women, Afghan women are therefore the leading role models for children at home, as the majority of women are domestic workers – either by choice or by lack of choice due to cultural, personal or family reasons.
I think the biggest positive change for women has been the sudden push for fair inclusion of women in Afghan society and the resultant opportunities from this attention to women’s inclusion in different parts of public life. Some might say education is the biggest positive change but education was available for women even before the Taliban era – I think it is the attention on women’s rights as an integral part of the Afghan society that has led to even better opportunities and access to education.
I think the biggest challenge to Afghan women continues to be cultural and familial restrictions – be it restrictions on women’s ability and freedom to pursue higher education, even if it means leaving Afghanistan, or having the freedom to work in a mixed gender environment without feeling the need to seek prior approval or permission from the family. Irrespective of religion’s role in Afghan society, Afghanistan is a very conservative country by nature so reaching the stage where women do not have to seek permission for advancing themselves will continue to be an inherent challenge to both socially-dependent and independent women of Afghanistan.
Afghanistan has a very family-oriented and collectivistic culture where many decisions are made with family and public perception in mind first, so it is important that emphasis be made towards acceptance and positive promotion of women in the public sphere. I believe that over time, when people witness the social and economic advantages of women’s involvement in the workplace, attitudes will begin to change and more families will begin to encourage women to participate.