Published on 06 May 2012 at 12:56
A decade after the fall of the Taliban, women advocacy organizations have improved remarkably. Women’s rights activists point to the presence of women’s rights organizations as a clear sign of improving women’s living conditions over the past ten years. They accept that some challenges still exist in this regard.
Members of Young Women for Change (YWC) celebrated its first anniversary at the Sahar Gul Net Café on April 26 in Kabul. Sahar Gul Net Café is the only net café in the country that provides internet services exclusively for female users. The net café is established by YWC and named after Sahar Gul, a victim of violence against women, to respect her resistance and courage. Sahar Gul Net Café was officially inaugurated on March 8th, International Women’s Day.
Sahar Gul’s step-brother forced her to marry an older man in his 30s in exchange for 260,000 Afghanis (approximately 5,531 U.S. dollars) when she was only 14 years old. Later on, when Sahar Gul refused to be a prostitute, she was tortured by her husband and his family. On January 5, 2012, Baghlan Province police found her abused in the home of her husband’s family. Eventually, she was moved to the Wazir Akbar Khan hospital in Kabul for treatment.
The YWC call Sahar Gul a symbol of courage and resistance.
Toba Ahmadyar, a member of the YWC
and manager at the Sahar Gul Net Café
Toba Ahmadyar, a member of the YWC and manager at the Sahar Gul Net Café, believes that establishment of this café is a good step in improving women’s rights in Afghanistan. Sahar Gul Net Café is equipped with 15 computers and provides internet facilities for dozens of women every day.
According to Toba, the café does not provide internet services alone. “We hold Sisters Session meetings every Thursday in the café and discuss social issues,” she said. “We have similar programs across the country and this net café is just a start.”
Toba says that YWC has established an office in Canada aiming to coordinate aid for its operation in Afghanistan. “Operations are under way to establish offices in provinces and the YWC will soon open its regional offices in Takhar and Nangarhar Provinces,” she added.
The YWC was established by Noorjahan Akbar and Anita Haidary last year and now it has more than 50 young members including boys and girls. The main goal of the YWC is to advocate for women’s rights, strengthen women, increase their awareness and improve their living conditions through social and economic participation.
As part of its operations last year, the YWC was involved in conducting social and cultural meetings and organizing demonstrations in Kabul. The YWC protested against street harassment of young women and girls; supported the hunger strike of Semin Barakzai, a legislator excluded from the Afghan National Assembly; and managed protests against increasing violence against women in Afghanistan.
Noorjahan Akabar calls the current year a “new year for old struggle” for the YWC. In a note published in the YWC’s weblog, she wrote: “I think keeping the independence and sustainability of this movement is harder than its start. The main thing to keep the independence of a movement is to gain national support for it. We should make every effort to change public opinion about women and the role of women in our society in order to gain national support for our movement in Afghanistan, so that they will support our organization to work for gender equality.”
Inside Sahar Gul Net Cafe
According to Noorjahan, YWC has started to mobilize youth and they will find a social base for their civil struggle. “We were able to mobilize more than 50 of the young generation to wake up, role up sleeves, and voluntarily struggle without asking for a penny or being scared of danger. I think this is a new movement for gender equality in Afghanistan,” she said.
During the Taliban era women faced many limitations and were deprived of their civil rights, including education. A decade after the fall of the Taliban, women advocacy organizations have improved remarkably. Women’s rights activists point to the presence of women’s rights organizations as a clear sign of improving women’s living conditions over the past ten years. They accept that some challenges still exist in this regard.
Masoma Mohammadi, the director of Equality Organization and a women’s rights activist is upbeat about women’s living conditions. “Undoubtedly, remarkable achievements have been obtained in the field of women’s rights in the presence of the international community over the past decade in Afghanistan, but it does not mean that all problems of women have been solved,” she said.
Masoma: Defending women’s rights in a traditional society is always difficult and our society is not an exception.
“In order to defend women’s rights and establish a sound civil society, the presence of women’s rights advocacy organizations is must,” she added.
Masoma believes that women’s rights advocacy has always been a difficult and challenging activity in Afghanistan. “Defending women’s rights in a traditional society is always difficult and our society is not an exception,” she said.
“It is a time consuming activity to institutionalize women’s rights in traditional Afghan society, but we believe that activities by women’s rights advocacy organizations will be effective and have good outcomes, as they have had remarkable achievement so far.”
- Peace talks on tap between Taliban, Afghanistan - CBS News
- 4 Americans killed at US base in Afghanistan; Taliban claim responsibility - Fortune
- US, Taliban to meet in Qatar for 'key milestone' toward ending Afghanistan war - NBCNews.com (blog)
- 4 US troops killed at Afghanistan air base - CBS News
- US Military Deaths in Afghanistan - New York Times
- Afghanistan peace talks: no surrender behind the Taliban's white flowers - The Guardian
- Is Peace and Stability Possible in Afghanistan ? - PBS NewsHour
- US to join direct peace talks in Qatar with Taliban over Afghanistan's future - The Guardian
- Taliban agree to peace talks with US over Afghanistan – full statement - The Guardian
- After Gunfire, Politicians in Afghanistan Trade Accusations - New York Times