Zakia Soleiman is a passionate and respected young advocate for women’s rights. She graduated from the American University of Afghanistan (AUAF) in December 2010. And since 2005 she has held a variety of senior management positions in a variety of organization both international and domestic.
Soleiman continues to be recognized in Afghanistan as one of the leading advocates for women and youth. Her work has been recognized by a number of International donor agencies and Embassies in the country and through her presentation of papers at a number of international and national symposiums, workshops and events. Her work in this all important sector of Afghanistan’s development is on going and is implemented by her engagements in a variety of small and large organizations in throughout the country. Her expertise is in high demand and her efforts are impacting on the development of women’s issues, Gender equality and youth empowerment.
There have been many improvements in the lives of Afghan women in the past decade including having the EVAW (Elimination of Violence against Women) law in place, which is expected to be used to prosecute violence against women, to which other existing laws have not been responsive. Having out of 249 Member of Parliaments (MPs) 68 women MPs is a higher percentage of female participation in parliament than other countries. While the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 National Action Plans is currently under the process of development by the Ministry of Affairs of Afghanistan.
In addition, there have been many changes in women’s lives in terms of education and women’s participation in other areas such as health, social and political organizations. However, to retain them it is important to respect and continue enforcing Afghanistan’s constitution and promoting the rule of law in the country.
Not respecting and complying with the laws and weak responses from the judicial system to victims, in particular women and girls are increasingly issues currently in Afghanistan. Both rural and urban areas suffer from a lack of security and poverty. The reduction of development projects started limiting job opportunities for women. The economy of the country yet remains pretty much donor dependent.
Having men working for women’s rights is the way for real change in Afghanistan, men also talking about women’s rights is very important considering the context of Afghanistan. Educating women on their Islamic rights is equally important. Being a religious society, if women in Afghanistan talk in reference to their rights under sharia law, most women would accept it based on the strong belief they have and thus their respect for the Islamic rights of women given under sharia law.
Confidence building of women through capacity building initiatives is important for the development of women’s participation in the future initiatives of Afghanistan. The capacity building should be carried out based on need and they should not be imposed initiatives. Real economic development of women is really essential if we want to see women’s presence in all affairs of the country.
My aim for Afghan women is to see them equally participating in all affairs of the country, not as symbols, but rather playing a real role for change. I hope their real participation will impact the cultural norms and change the minds of men and their perspective on women and women’s right.