Published on 31 Oct 2011 at 09:10
An interview with the Head of the Nangarhar Department of Women’s Affairs, Anisa Emrani.
What facilities has the Department of Women’s Affairs provided for the women of Nangarhar?
The Nangarhar Department of Women’s Affairs has provided health and education facilities for women throughout the province. There are 20 high schools in Nangarhar and every district has a primary and a secondary school. Most districts have clinics that provide women with basic health services.
Overall, there have been many positive changes in women’s living conditions in Nangarhar province over the past ten years. Nangarhar women have been elected to the Lower House of Parliament and to the Provincial Council.
But women in remote areas are still facing lots of problems; due to the security situation, neither domestic nor international organizations can work there.
Many organizations are working for women in the provincial capital, Jalalabad, while women in rural areas of the province are still facing many problems. What has your department done for those women so far?
The Department of Women’s Affairs, in close coordination with the Nangarhar Department of Public Health, is making every effort to address medical problems in remote areas. We have been trying to encourage donor agencies to build clinics where none exist.
But one of the problems is the lack of female medical staff in those areas. Many pregnant women die giving birth. We have asked the provincial government to provide security for female medical staff in remote areas to decrease the level of maternal mortality.
In the field of education, we have established women’s literacy courses in remote areas with the support of the UNICEF. Also, the WFP (World Food Program) is giving foodstuffs to hundreds of thousands of trainees in those courses. We have brought 30 young, interested women to continue their higher education at the Nangarhar Teachers’ Training Center.
Although we have primary and secondary schools in remote areas, the lack of female teachers is a big challenge for us.
With support from USAID, we have conducted training courses for 60 women in Jalalabad to learn painting and plumber skills. In addition to that, the Department of Women’s Affairs has given 200 women sewing machines in the Weachtangi valley in Behsud district.
The U.S. Ambassador’s Small Grants Program to Support Gender Equality in Afghanistan (ASGP) has established training courses in the field of animal husbandry and is providing women with small business loans in remote areas. Besides that, some national and foreign non-governmental organizations (NGOs) assist women through the district councils.
But it is not enough, and we have to work harder to address their problems.
In your opinion, what are the main challenges for Nangarhar’s women?
Nangarhar’s women are suffering from insecurity, the lack of educational facilities, economic difficulties, cultural restrictions and many other social problems. Women are still used as a means for settling disputes in the province.
Do provincial officials help you to address women’s problems?
Yes. We have close coordination with all provincial offices. Nangarhar’s officials, especially the governor and members of the provincial council, are supporting the Department in solving women’s problems.
Many people complain that nothing substantive has been done to change women’s living conditions. Do you have any strategic plan to bring these changes about?
We are always asking donor agencies to implement infrastructure projects for women. They should build factories and provide jobs for disabled and widowed women. We propose that donor agencies help us make a market for women in Jalalabad to sell their handicrafts. There should be opportunities for displaying their handmade goods.
Women do not have a significant presence in governmental and non-governmental entities in Nangarhar province. In your opinion, what is the reason for this?
Three decades of war in Afghanistan has affected women’s lives. They have suffered a lot; they have lost their husbands, fathers, brothers, sons, and have been facing many economic problems. They were deprived of access to education. All these constraints resulted in their very limited presence in government and in NGOs.
Fortunately, this situation has changed over the past few years and women now have active participation in the society. The Department of Women’s Affairs hires women on the basis of merit.
What do you need in order to better address women’s problems?
Women do, indeed, face many problems in Nangarhar; lack of education, physical abuse, family conflicts, insecurity, and many other factors make their lives difficult.
Therefore, we ask Islamic scholars -the mullahs - to inform people about women’s rights in Islam. Mullahs in mosques should preach about women’s rights. Besides that, we propose that all provincial offices help the Department of Women’s Affairs to build women’s capacity to solve their own problems.
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- Afghanistan: Inside The Head Of The Giant Buddha - PRI's The World
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