The Christian Science Monitor

For Afghan women, rocky path to respect exacts a steep price

Afghan women in traditional clothes welcome activists to the 1st Afghanistan Successful Women's Festival on the grounds of Kabul University, Jan. 10, 2018. US and other Western donors have spent $1.5 billion to empower Afghan women since 2001. Despite progress in education and joining the workforce, Afghan women still report widespread misogyny, abuse, and violence. Source: Scott Peterson/Getty Images/The Christian Science Monitor

What do you call a female journalist in Afghanistan?

A prostitute.

That’s no joke. And none know it better than the reporters and producers working at “Zan TV,” an Afghan channel devoted to empowering women.

The all-woman TV station operates from an anonymous office down a narrow, pot-holed lane in Kabul, hard by a building belonging to the Interior Ministry. Asked where the “Women’s TV” office is, one of the ministry’s bearded, uniformed guards smirks.

“The sex center, it’s over there,” he replies, pointing to an unmarked door along the lane. “Go on, you will have a great time with those girls.”

His response encapsulates the continuing challenge for Afghan women to learn, to work, and to be respected by Afghan men. But “Zan TV,” which broadcasts news and features around the clock to a female audience, is on a mission to change that kind of sexist attitude.

“Our job is to work on people’s

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