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A Resource Book ∙ 2nd Edition 2005
T H E PA R T I C I PAT I O N O F
A F G H A N I S TA N ’ S
WOMEN IN POLITICS AND CIVIL SOCIETY
Our Country My Role
Supporting the participation of Afghanistan’s women in politics and civil society
Resource book 2005 ∙ 2nd Edition
Contents Chapter 1 ............................................................ ..4 GETTING STARTED Chapter 2 ........................................................... 20 WOMEN AND POLITICS IN THE MODERN WORLD Chapter 3 ........................................................... 45 CIVIL SOCIETY Chapter 4 ........................................................... 56 HUMAN RIGHTS Chapter 5 ........................................................... 67 TAKING PART IN POLITICS Chapter 6 ........................................................... 79 AFGHANS CAN MOVE FORWARD: ISSUES IN PUBLIC LIFE Chapter 7 ........................................................... 89 OUR COUNTRY – MY ROLE Discussions and Activities for Seven Workshops Session 1 ............................................................ 103 GETTING STARTED Session 2 ............................................................ 107 WOMEN AND POLITICS IN THE MODERN WORLD Session 3 ............................................................ 111 CIVIL SOCIETY Session 4 ............................................................ 114 HUMAN RIGHTS Session 5 ............................................................ 119 TAKING PART IN POLITICS Session 6 ............................................................ 123 AFGHANS CAN MOVE FORWARD: ISSUES IN PUBLIC LIFE Session 7 ............................................................ 129 OUR COUNTRY – MY ROLE
A Women without Borders Publication
by Georgina Nitzsche • Alexander Nitzsche Dr. Cheryl Benard • Dr. Agnes Wagner • Bobani Shefa • Dr. Saber Naseri Nasrine Gross • Dr. Edit Schlaffer • Sarah Massini (illustrator)
A Ministry of Women’s Affairs (MoWA) Project supported by the UNFPA Kabul
CHAPTER ONE : GETTING STARTED
CHAPTER ONE: GETTING STARTED
After 30 years of war and civil war, Afghanistan is ﬁnally on its way to peace and prosperity. This cannot happen overnight. What was destroyed has to be rebuilt; time that was lost for learning and development needs to be made up and Afghanistan must work hard to take its rightful place in the world community of peaceful, democratic nations. This is a big job. The effort of each and every family and each and every individual is necessary, including the women. No country can grow and succeed without the participation of its women. In fact, there are a number of international proverbs that express exactly this: “A bird cannot ﬂy with just one wing.” “Women hold up half the sky.” What do you think? What do these proverbs mean? What are some of the things women contribute, that a society could not exist without? What do you personally do that is helpful and important to your family, your friends and your neighborhood? Some people think that politics is more a matter for men than for women. In fact, it is quite dangerous for a country if women stay out of politics. In such a country, the needs of the ordinary people, and of children and families, will not be well represented. Also, government and business work better, more efﬁciently and more honestly when women are involved. World Bank studies show that corruption and bad management are much less common when women are included in an institution in sufﬁcient numbers. Women are important to the political life of a country because: • In most countries of the world, they are slightly more than half of the population – this means they are the majority, the country’s larger part. Obviously, you cannot have a democracy (government by the people) if the majority of the people are not even taking part. Women take care of the children and raise the next generation. Mothers who are intelligent, educated, happy and healthy are more likely to have intelligent, educated, happy and healthy children. Women are more in tune with the daily life of a society and its families. If they are heard, they can make sure that the government understands the situation and the problems of families and children, and that it pays enough attention to these matters. The terrible years that Afghanistan has experienced show that peace, freedom, and a society in which everyone is treated fairly and with respect cannot be taken for granted. These things can be lost, and everyone can be forced to live in great darkness and suffering. If you want to live in a country that is peaceful, safe, where you are respected
The World Bank is one of the most important international organizations. It employs thousands of experts and economists from around the world. It advises governments and conducts studies. Some of these studies compared governments, ministries and organizations which have 50% women, to those who have very few women. Corruption was lowest when half or nearly half of the organization was made up of women. (Source: The Fairer Sex? World Bank 2001)
OUR COUNTRY - MY ROLE as a human being, and where you and your family can enjoy a good life, then you have to make sure that you have a good government of honest people who will build and defend this kind of a country. As a woman, you have to raise your voice for the things that are important for you and your family – to make sure that Afghanistan does not go back to the violence and ignorance of the past years. Afghanistan has chosen a hopeful and positive direction. It has many friends all around the world who wish it well and are prepared to help. It has a new constitution; one that many other countries in the region have expressed admiration for. Some other countries have even started to copy some of the good ideas from the Afghan constitution, such as protecting the language rights of their minorities, and guaranteeing that there will be at least a reasonable number of women in elected bodies by reserving seats for them. Women were part of the commission that drafted this constitution, and part of the loya jirga that ratiﬁed it. But they could not have succeeded without the help and support of the many male members of the loya jirga who voted in support of the interests and rights of women. These men were anxious to have a real and solid democracy and to safeguard against a return to the bad times of the past. There are important milestones ahead. Afghanistan is on the right road, but the process is not ﬁnished yet, and things can still go wrong. It would be dangerous to just sit back and hope that things will go well, or that someone else will take care of matters! Everyone’s strength is needed to defend peace and democracy in Afghanistan, and to build a prosperous new country that can take its place in the world. Can men have babies and build families all on their own? Can they manage a household and a family by themselves? No. And they can’t create a government and rebuild a country all by themselves, either. It takes the energies of both men and women.
Running a government is like managing a family
Think about some of the things that need to be taken care of in a family: Prepare the meals to feed everyone Take care of the person who is sick Earn money Clean whatever is dirty, such as laundry and dishes Decorate the house so it will look nice Buy needed items from the market or shop If the family produces something, such as carpets, sell them Visit friends and relatives and have them visit you If you have a disagreement with a friend or neighbour, talk to them and try to ﬁx it Teach the young children how to eat, talk, walk and behave properly
CHAPTER ONE : GETTING STARTED
These are no different from what needs to be taken care of in a country. In fact they are exactly the same. The only difference is in the size. A government does the same things that a good wife and husband do for their family, it just does them in a bigger way. And have you noticed? All the jobs on this list are things which women can certainly do. In fact, most of them are things that are part of a housewife’s everyday, normal responsibility. Let’s look at how the things that are done in a family, are just like the things that are done by a government: Ministry of Health Taking care of those who are sick. Ministry of Trade Buys things the country needs, and sells things the country produces. Ministry of Foreign Affairs Keeping good relations with countries who are friends, and trying to resolve disputes with countries where one has a conﬂict. Ministry of Education Making sure that children and young people can go to school and learn. Ministry of Agriculture Making sure there is enough food. Mayor Making sure the city is clean, the garbage is collected and that the streets and parks look nice. Women sometimes think of politics as something strange and frightening. There is no need to think this way. There is nothing mysterious or extremely difﬁcult about what a government does, and there is no special secret involved that only men know. All over the world today, women are running ministries such as the ones described above, or are mayors of cities and even presidents of countries. We will meet some of these women in a later section. Of course it is necessary to be educated in order to do this work well. But even more, it is necessary to have the same qualiﬁcations that make a good housewife: to be practical and not extravagant, to be honest and really care about the well being of the family/country, to get along well with others and create a peaceful atmosphere. In this book, you will ﬁnd out more about: • • • Words and ideas used when thinking about public life. The lives of some women who overcame great obstacles and made a difference, and are honored by their countries today. The stories of some of Afghanistan’s famous women.
OUR COUNTRY - MY ROLE • • • • Human rights, how they were deﬁned and what they have to do with your life. How ordinary people can make a difference in the community and take part in politics. How promoting human rights can make your family’s life better. Why voting is important.
First, let’s look at some of the terms that will be used in this handbook. What is democracy? Democracy is not a modern or a new idea, but has been developing since the 5th century BC. Democracy means government by the people. Several key things must be present for a country to be considered a democracy: Rule of Law, Due Process, Freedom of Expression, Human Rights and Elections. 1. Rule of law This means that society is governed by rules that are known, that are fair, that apply to everyone equally and in the same way, and that are enforced and respected. In a democracy, no-one is above the law, no matter how rich or important they are. Under rule of law, it is not up to some powerful person to decide things however he likes; there are laws, rules and procedures and if they are broken, then there is somewhere you can go to complain, where you can be sure that you will get a fair hearing. It isn’t necessary to ask for favors, or pay bribes, or be afraid of threats because decisions are made on the basis of laws and rules and there are ways to get justice if someone breaks these laws and rules. In a feudal society, everyone is not equal: the rules are made by those who have power and can be changed or broken whenever they like. Many countries and societies have made the change from a feudal order to a democratic order with rule of law. This change is not easy and it is not accomplished overnight.
Passengers on Ariana Airlines Passengers on Ariana Airlines have been complaining about their experiences. One person reports, “My ﬂight did not leave on time. The departure time came, and we all got on board. But then we sat in the airplane for two hours, just waiting. Finally someone told us the reason: some important person wanted to travel on our ﬂight, but he had slept too long, and now he wanted to ﬁnish his breakfast at home before he came to the airport. So the airplane and all of the passengers had to wait for him.” Another person says, “Smoking cigarettes is not allowed on any airplane of any airline, anywhere in the world, because it is not safe. But on Ariana Airlines, important people smoke a cigarette whenever they want to, during the ﬂight.” Finally, a third person told us, “I have a problem with my back, so I bought a ﬁrst class ticket for the ﬂight, even though it is much more expensive. But when I went to sit down in my seat, they told me I had to move to the back of the airplane, because an important person who did not have any ticket, wanted to go
CHAPTER ONE : GETTING STARTED
on this ﬂight. I did not get my money back and I did not get the seat I had paid for.” These are examples of the ‘rule of law’ being ignored, because some people are still thinking in feudal terms. In a feudal world, the airplane will leave whenever the important person says it will leave. But under rule of law, it will leave when the schedule says it will. Every passenger who has a ticket is equal, and there aren’t any special rules for ‘important people’. The only people who can delay a ﬂight are the air trafﬁc controller or the mechanic or the pilot, and only because there is an important technical reason, such as for example, the snowfall is too heavy and it wouldn’t be safe to leave.
What do you think? Can the modern world function on feudal principles? What would happen if airplanes ﬂew without a plan, just whenever somebody important feels like it? There would be chaos in the sky, and many accidents. Think about last week. Did you experience any example of ‘feudal thinking’? Did you experience a successful example of the ‘rule of law’ working properly? What can you do when your rights are violated by ‘feudal thinking’? What could the passengers in the above examples do? What you can do! Write a letter of complaint and have as many other passengers as possible sign it. Take your letter to the ministry. Take it also to the newspapers. Once other airlines also ﬂy to Afghanistan, tell Ariana that you will give your business to them instead if they do not follow the correct rules.
2. Due process What if someone accuses you of doing something wrong, or breaking a law? Maybe you are guilty – but what if you are innocent? In a democracy, a person is not just accused and punished quickly. Whoever accuses them has to prove that they really did something wrong. And not just anybody can hear this accusation and then decide. There is a procedure, established by the constitution and by the laws of the country. This includes such steps as complaining formally to the police or to a court, having a proper investigation to see what really happened, being allowed to bring witnesses and proofs, having a hearing or a trial. You are not allowed to ruin a person’s reputation, take away their livelihood, put them in prison or do anything similar unless they have had a fair trial, a chance to defend themselves, and an independent judge has decided their guilt. 3. Freedom of expression Democracy includes important personal freedoms, such as freedom of speech, freedom of association, and freedom of the press. This means that people have the right to say their opinions, including their opinions about their political leaders and their government. They have the right to hold meetings with others and to attend meetings. For example, everyone – women and men – has the right to attend political meetings. Freedom of the press means that newspapers,
OUR COUNTRY - MY ROLE magazines, radio and television must be allowed to publish information and as many different opinions as they want, freely. After so many years of fear, of people being forbidden to speak their mind, Afghanistan now has these rights guaranteed in the constitution. In a ‘feudal order’, you are only allowed to say what the powerful person likes to hear. If you say something they don’t like, you can be punished. Today, Afghanistan has freedom of the press: however, it will take some time to get used to the change. Several Afghan journalists have been threatened for expressing their views. This was undoubtedly very frightening for them – but each time, their right to speak and write freely was afﬁrmed by the responsible authorities in the end and they did not lose their job, have their newspaper closed down or suffer in any other way. Freedom of the press does not mean that you can be irresponsible. Freedom and responsibility go together. You cannot publish in a newspaper, or say on the radio, something which is not true and which will harm another person. You cannot use the media to stir people up to do bad things, such as attack somebody, or kill other people. You cannot write things that will encourage hatred, for example against another religious group or a minority. The press, too, must obey the rule of law. Newspaper article Two young men published an editorial explaining their views about correct governance. Here is what they wrote: “One of the most important principles of Islam, which should be respected by all of its followers, is to use power properly and observe the government regulations and positions well. Over the past two decades, we saw different people and groups who abused the holy principles of Islam, including jihad, emirate and Islamic caliphate. The best examples of a correct caliphate and emirate can be found in Islam’s history. When a person was appointed as governor under true Islam, ﬁrst his belongings were checked, to make sure that he did not later enrich himself by his ofﬁce. Second, he had to agree to the following terms: Not to live a luxurious life Not to gain wealth for himself Not to seek personal comfort Instead to pay attention to the peoples’ problems.” Some politicians, reading this editorial, saw it as a criticism of themselves and their own style of living. They tried to have the writers arrested. But other journalists defended them and refused to let the politician’s security men take them away. The incident was reported in other countries, and many organizations watched out to see that the writers would be safe, and that their right to express their opinion would be respected.
An editorial is an article, published in a newspaper, that expresses a personal opinion. It is different from a news report, which should only include facts.
CHAPTER ONE : GETTING STARTED
4. Human rights Afghanistan has a constitution, which describes the rights you have as an Afghan citizen. But we are not just citizens of a certain country. We are also all human beings, and we belong to the human community. The International Declaration of Human Rights, which was decided more than 50 years ago by the United Nations, is something like a constitution for the whole world. In fact, the Afghan Constitution mentions human rights as one of the most important things it respects, believes in and will defend. All democracies must support human rights. A later section of this booklet will talk more about human rights. If you want to see them now, you can go to page 55. 5. Elections An important part of democracy is that the people have the power to choose who their leaders will be, which direction their country will take, and who will speak for them when decisions need to be made. Usually, this is done through elections. In a ‘perfect democracy’, everyone would give their opinion about each and every decision that needs to be made: however, this is not possible or practical. Therefore, instead we choose someone to represent us in the government. We choose a person we trust, someone who we think will make good decisions, someone whose views we generally agree with. Think about all the decisions that are necessary to run a country. Governments have to collect money, decide how to spend it the most wisely, make plans for the future, organize the police and army, negotiate with other countries and build-up trade. This requires thousands of decisions every day. Would it be possible for everybody to discuss all of these questions and then decide together? No. Instead, we choose people whose job it will be to discuss these things on our behalf and to make the decisions. We choose people who we think will decide in a way that we would agree with, and that will make our country better. We try to choose people who care about justice and about the country, not just about their own power or their own wealth. We choose them by holding elections, in which we vote for the person we think is best. These elected leaders are not elected forever, only for a certain number of years. After this time is over, we think about whether they did a good job. If yes, we might want to vote for them again in the next election. If we think they did a bad job, then we will vote for somebody else the next time. One more thing: history has taught us that it is better that no one person should hold all the power, that is why even a president who is doing a wonderful job, should not keep his position for too long. This is called a term limit. Depending on the position – president, minister, judge, etc. – there can be a different limit. The President of the United States is elected for four years. He or she can be elected for a second time, and be president for another four years. But after that, they cannot be elected again. It’s someone else’s turn to be president.
OUR COUNTRY - MY ROLE Who shall take the children when we go away? Habiba and her husband are going to Zabul for a week. They will leave their two small children behind. Now they are discussing which of their relatives they should leave them with. The children can either stay with Habiba’s sister Marghala, or with her other sister Makai. Habiba says, “I think we should leave the children with Makai. She is a careful mother and I like the way she takes care of her own children. They will be safe and happy with her. In her family, the rules are the same as in our own family. She will allow them to do the same things we allow them to do, and forbid them to do the things we don’t allow. Marghala is a good woman and a good sister, but she has different opinions. She lets her son ﬂy kites on the roof, and I don’t let Ehsan do that, because I am too worried that he will fall. Makai is more like me, so I choose Makai.” In the same way, people choose between different candidates in an election. They choose the person they trust more, the person they agree with more, and the person they think will make the better decisions. In an election, candidates from different political parties, who stand for different ideas, run for ofﬁce. The voters decide which one of them is closest to their own opinions and beliefs, and can therefore best represent them. What is registration? To be a voter, you must meet two requirements. You have to be old enough to make sensible and responsible decisions. The law of each country decides the age when they think this is the case. In Afghanistan it is 18. In Iran, it is 16. Secondly, you have to be a citizen of the country whose government you are going to help choose. There is no difference between men and women, both of them can vote if they are 18 and are citizens of Afghanistan. Everyone must register beforehand. That way, the people who are organizing the election will have a list. When someone comes to vote, their name is crossed off the list. Then no-one can try to cheat and vote twice. And no-one who is not an Afghan can falsely try to vote in the Afghan election. Some women in Afghanistan are nervous about registering. There is no reason to be worried. Registering is easy and you will not feel uncomfortable. You will go to a special registration centre for women, and it will be a woman who registers you. It takes only a few minutes. You will get a Voter Registration Card. It is better to have a card with your photograph on it, to make sure that no-one else can take your card and vote instead of you. Several respected Islamic leaders in Afghanistan and other Muslim countries have said that it is all right for a woman to have her picture taken in order to vote. But if you or your family believe that it is not good to have your photograph taken, your view will be respected. You can still register and you can still get a card, with no photograph. You can give your ﬁngerprint instead. On voting day, you can vote.
CHAPTER ONE : GETTING STARTED
What is voting? To vote means to express your view or opinion about what you think should be done, and who you think should be chosen as the leader. Voting is one of the ways in which a decision can be made by a group. When a group needs to make a decision that will affect everyone, the different members of the group often have different ideas, and want different things. How can they decide? There are many ways. One way to reach a decision is for the group to keep talking and discussing until they all agree, which is called a consensus. This is good, but it takes a lot of time, and sometimes it is just not possible to get everyone to agree. Bus to Mazar-i-Sharif Sometimes, one person in a group has to make the decision alone, because he or she is the only one who knows the best solution. For example, imagine that you are on a bus, going to Mazar-i-Sharif. The bus hits a big hole in the road and the driver stops. Everybody gets off the bus and looks at the tire. Can the bus keep going, or has the tire become too ﬂat? Everybody might have an opinion, but the driver has to make this decision. He knows his bus best. But in other decisions, it is better to ﬁnd out what people prefer. Let’s imagine that the bus driver had to stop and ﬁx the tire. It took a long time. At the next rest area, he asks the passengers to decide if they want to stop, or if they want to keep driving to make up the lost time. He asks them, “How many people want to keep going?” Only two people put their hand up. “How many want to stop?” This time, 15 people raise their hand. It is better to stop, because this is what more people want to do. Sometimes one person or one group doesn’t even ask the others what they think. Because they are the strongest, they declare themselves to be the boss. They refuse to listen to the wishes and opinions of others, and instead force the others to obey them. This is a dictatorship, not a democracy, and it is a bad form of government. It is not a good way to make decisions, or to have a happy life in a family or a country. There are different ways to vote. Like the people in the bus, people sometimes vote by raising their hand. In some parliaments, the vote is taken by voice – those who are in favor of a decision loudly say ‘yes’, and those who are against it say ‘no’. The person who is in charge either counts the yes and no votes, or decides which one had more votes by listening to which one is louder. Usually, if a decision is important, the best way to vote is by secret ballot. This way, everyone can vote the way they really want to. No one can be angry with them, or punish them afterwards, or not be their friend anymore, or use any kind of pressure against them, because no-one will know how another person voted. This prevents arguments and trouble and gives the person who is voting real freedom to choose. When you are voting by secret ballot, each voter marks a mark on a paper to show the name or symbol of the person or decision he or she wants to vote for.
OUR COUNTRY - MY ROLE They don’t show their paper to anybody else. When they have ﬁnished they drop their voting paper, called a ballot, into a box. This way, nobody knows who they voted for. Afterwards if people ask them who they voted for, they can tell them if they want to. Or they can say, “I can’t tell you, because it was a secret ballot.” Their name is not on the ballot paper so nobody who sees a ballot paper later can know whose it was. What do you think? Let’s try out the different ways of voting. Let’s decide if we are going to drink green tea or black tea. Everybody who wants green tea, raise their hand. And who prefers black tea? What are some of the advantages and disadvantages of voting this way? One disadvantage is that if you are shy, or if you think your friend disagrees with you, you might not want to raise your hand. Or perhaps nobody wants to be the ﬁrst to raise her hand – and so nobody will speak up. Sometimes you don’t even have to waste time counting the hands, because it is obvious that many more hands were raised for one decision than for another. Now let’s try with our voices. I suggest that we all drink green tea. All in favor say Yes! All against say No! What the advantages or disadvantages with this way? Advantage: it is fast. Disadvantage: sometimes one side sounds louder, even if there are fewer people. And again, if you are shy this is not good for you.
After everybody has voted, the ballots are counted to see who got the most votes. This person is the winner. Usually, it’s a good idea for someone to watch over the people who are doing the counting. After all, they might make a mistake. They might even cheat on purpose, by counting more votes for the person they like. Often, the people who watch the election will come from a completely different country. This way, they can be especially fair, because they don’t know the candidates and they don’t like one candidate more than the other. Their only job is to see that the election is honest. During the 2002 election for the President of the United States, one part of the country had a problem with its ballots, and all of the votes had to be counted a second time. People from everywhere came to watch over this, to make sure the counting was fair.
As this picture shows, an election observer with an identiﬁcation card watches to be sure that the elections are fair as a woman puts her secret ballot into the ballot box. (Credit: OSCE)
CHAPTER ONE : GETTING STARTED
What is a quota? A game or a race – and a political election – is fair if everyone has the same chance to win. But what if one person is at a disadvantage? If you still want to have a game or a race, you have to do something to make things fairer. A head start in a race Let’s say that Toryelay wants to have a race with his cousin Khaled. But Khaled is wearing sandals, and he can’t run as well in his sandals as Toryelay can run in his sport shoes. They decide that, to make things more even, Khaled can run a shorter race than Toryelay: he can have a head start. In elections, a ‘quota’ is like this head start. If a group is at a disadvantage, and wouldn’t have the same chance as others, then there are things we can do to make the situation fairer. In politics today, women continue to have some disadvantages. • • Women are still new to the process, and don’t know how ‘the game’ works as well as the men do, who have been doing it for a long time. Men have strong networks of other men who will help them, ﬁght for them, support them, give them money and applaud for them. Women don’t have such networks yet. It’s often harder for women to stand up in public and speak. They feel shy, and are afraid that people might disapprove of a woman who gets herself noticed. Women have a lot of responsibilities at home and with their children, which makes it hard for them to ﬁnd enough time to do political work, go to meetings, and travel around making speeches. Sometimes their family does not encourage them, and might even try to stop them. But the family of a man is often proud of him when he gets involved in politics, and helps him. Some voters are still prejudiced against women. They prefer to vote for a man, without considering that the woman might be better qualiﬁed and might do a better job.
But let’s not forget that women also have some advantages: • • • • People often trust them more, and think they will be more honest. Because they aren’t part of the networks, they are more independent. They are often closer to real life, and know what their fellow citizens want and need. Often, they are especially brave and strong individuals – they have to be, to have the courage to overcome all of the discouragement and difﬁculties put in their way.
OUR COUNTRY - MY ROLE What do you think? Do you think these are real problems facing women who want to be involved in politics in Afghanistan? Have you heard people say negative things about a woman who is outspoken? Can you think of other handicaps a woman faces that we can add to this list? However, the disadvantages are quite serious. Therefore, many countries have invented ways to make things fairer. Some countries use what is called a zebra principle. A zebra is an animal like a horse, but it has black and white stripes. In politics, this means that all lists of candidates have to be ‘striped’ like the zebra – but instead of alternating black and white, the list has to alternate men and women. For every man who is on the list, a woman has to follow as the next candidate. This means that when the election is over, half of the winners will be men and half will be women. Other countries set a quota – a certain amount of seats which must be reserved for women. In France and in South Africa, 50% of candidates in local elections must be women. In Norway, the Labor Party set a 40% quota for women. In Tanzania, 20% of national seats and 25% of local government seats are reserved. In India, it’s 33% at the local government level. In March 2004, Spanish voters elected a new which one woman and one man always alternate on the list government. During the campaign, the Social- of a political party, just like the stripes on the zebra’s body. (Credit: Joerg Bachmann) ist Party promised that if they were elected, half of their cabinet would be women – and they won. That means that many men and women agreed with their idea. The constitution of Afghanistan states that there must be an average of 2 seats per province reserved for women, adding up to 25% at the national level. This was decided at the loya jirga, as a way of making things more fair for women. The people voting in favor of this, were mostly men. They did this because they wanted a true democracy, which is fair to all citizens and does not exclude half of the population. What is campaigning, networking and lobbying? Imagine there is a matter that is very important to you, your family, your neighbourhood, your village or some other group you belong to. You really want a particular decision to go your way! For example, let’s say that the local government has some money for rural development, and your village really needs clean water. You want some of this money to be spent on a new well for the school and the clinic in your village. In order to inﬂuence a decision in your favor, you must persuade others to support you. There are three different kinds of people whom you might need to persuade:
This animal gave its name to a certain kind of quota, in
CHAPTER ONE : GETTING STARTED
1. People who would beneﬁt from this decision You would need to inform them about it and persuade them to speak out in public or to vote in the correct manner to achieve this thing that you want. Maybe the people in your village don’t know about the money for rural development – you have to give them the information. Perhaps they know, but they are discouraged and think it is hopeless to even ask for it, because your village will not get it anyway – then you have to mobilize them. Giving them information, getting them to support your idea and encouraging them to be active in order to make this idea happen is called campaigning. You can campaign for a person, or you can campaign for an idea. The person you campaign for can be yourself, or some politician you believe in. 2. People who are not directly affected by the thing you want... ...but who might support you because they are your friends, and because the next time, you might support them! Obviously, the more people of this kind that you know, the better your chances of success. However, you can’t wait until the day before you need help to start developing these kinds of friendships. You must build them over time. This is called networking. In networking, you do exactly what this word suggests – you build a net of relationships with people who can be helpful to you in the future, and to whom you in turn can also be helpful. There are different kinds of help. Some people might be able to give you information. Some might have inﬂuence. Some can give you good advice about special matters that you don’t know very much about. Others can give you their vote, or their voice in a meeting, where they can speak out on your behalf. 3. People who are in a position to make a decision If you want them to decide in a way that is favourable to you, you have to do several things. You have to let them know what you want. You have to persuade them that this is a good thing, and that many other people want it, too. You have to convince them that it will be good for them if they support this thing – because people will admire them for it, or will vote for them in the next election, etc. This process of speaking with people who have some sort of power or inﬂuence and trying to convince them, is called lobbying. Things that improve your chance of getting what you want: • • • • many people are asking for it, not just you alone. you are not only asking for it, but can give good reasons why it is the right thing to do. there will be some good consequences for the person in charge, if they say yes. there will be some bad consequences for them, if they say no.
Women lobbying together
Even though women are numerically the majority of society, in politics they are usually a minority, often a small minority. If they cooperate with each other, they will have a lot more power than if they each try to operate alone. If there are 15 women and they are asking for 15 different things, they will not make a very
OUR COUNTRY - MY ROLE important impression. If some of the things they are asking for are opposite to each other, they will be erasing each other. But if they can get together and agree on the three most important things they all want, they will have a better chance of success. What do you think? Think about some problem you have recently had. Did you talk about your problem with others? Did you ﬁnd someone or something to help you? Did you ask someone for advice? Think about the last time you knew someone else with a problem. Did you comfort them? Did you try to help them? Did you have a skill that you could teach them? Did you have an idea that solved the problem?
There are different types of support networks. They can be very small between individuals in a small area, like a family. They can be large and organized, like a national organization, for example the Red Crescent Society. With telephones, television and computers, networks can even connect people across the world. Being part of a network of people with similar goals, ideas and problems can help an individual get information and support. TakingITGlobal (www.takingitglobal.org) is a worldwide network of young people, with many members from Islamic countries. Fifty young Afghans are already part of the network. The members share ideas and hopes, and advice about things that have worked for them in school and business.
What you can do! For information about women political leaders from all over the world, see www.guide2womenleaders.com. This internet website was made by a man in Denmark, Martin Christensen. We sent him an e mail to ask about his website and to ﬁnd out what gave him the idea to collect such information. Here is what he replied to us: “I am glad that you can use my website to help encourage Afghan women to participate in the democratic process. “I have been interested in women in power for a number of years - as a child I read about Catherine the Great, Empress of Russia, about Maria-Theresa, Empress of Austria and others. I was fascinated by them, how they could cope in a very male environment. “I studied history and collected information about the women. I found out that there were many more than one realizes, and when I learned about the internet, I took the chance of creating a website, so that more people could share the information.”
SUFFRAGE MAP OF THE WORLD
OUR COUNTRY - MY ROLE Women’s Suffrage Map of the World Here is a selection of countries where women gained full suffrage. That means the year women were granted the right both to vote and to stand for election. The countries listed below currently have a parliament or have had one at some point in their history. 1906 1913 1918 1920 1924 1927 1928 1930 1934 1937 1938 1947 1949 1955 1962 1963 1970 1971 1974 1984 1994 2005 Finland Alaska Austria, Kyrgyzstan, Russian Federation Iceland Tajikistan, Mongolia Turkmenistan United Kingdom South Africa (whites) Brazil, Cuba, Turkey Philippines Uzbekistan Argentina, Japan, Pakistan, Singapore People’s Republic of China Cambodia, Peru Australia, Uganda Afghanistan, Kenya Yemen Switzerland Jordan South Africa (coloreds and Indians) South Africa (blacks) Kuwait
In the United Arab Emirates, where parliament is ofﬁcially appointed, neither men nor women have the right to vote or to stand for election.
CHAPTER TWO : WOMEN AND POLITICS IN THE MODERN WORLD
CHAPTER TWO: WOMEN AND POLITICS IN THE MODERN WORLD
One of the sad but true facts about human beings is that people who become powerful do not always want to share their power. As a result of this, people have to stand up for their rights themselves. Waiting until those who are more powerful decide to be fair to you and give you your share and your rights does not work. This is true for anyone who is in a weaker position. It is true if you belong to a race or an ethnic group that is in the minority. And throughout history, it has generally been true for women. We just said that human beings have the habit of enjoying power and trying to hold on to it, at the expense of others. But that is not the whole story. Fortunately, human beings also have a strong belief in fairness and equality. Many people, including some who belong to the stronger side, believe in justice, and take the side of those who are weaker and who are being treated unfairly. There are different reasons why they might do this: • Some do it because of their religious faith. They believe that God stands for justice; that you will be punished if you treat other people unfairly; that everyone is equal, as the Koran says; and that it is an obligation to help others achieve what they deserve. Some do it because they believe in democracy and progress. They look at the world around them to see which countries are happy, and which ones are doing badly. They notice that countries in which men and women treat each other in a friendly and respectful way, where women have jobs, and are educated, and in which people are treated fairly and equally, have more prosperity, healthier families, and more peace than countries in which people are oppressed and treated unequally.
Around the world, whenever women tried to get equality and justice they encountered some men – and also some women – who tried to stop and discourage them. However, they also found men and women who encouraged and supported them. In fact, some of the most outspoken leaders in the movement for women’s rights in the Islamic world, have been men. Did you know? In New Zealand (1893) and Denmark (1915), women received the vote without a struggle. These countries are the exception. In most cases, women had a long and hard journey before they were able to vote and be elected as representatives.
However, this does not mean that things are easy. Almost everywhere in the world, women had to overcome resistance and had to ﬁght for their right to vote, to get a good education, to work and to have equal legal rights. The constitution of Afghanistan states it clearly: women and men are equal before the law. Both are citizens of their country. Both have the same rights
OUR COUNTRY - MY ROLE and responsibilities of a citizen. Both can vote and can be voted for. This puts Afghanistan on the same level as the rest of the world’s modern democracies. Let’s look at some of the other countries in the world, to see what women experienced when they tried to get the right to be equal citizens, and to vote. As we are doing this, we will look for patterns. Many things in this world have a pattern. If you are knitting something, you will follow a pattern. If you are making a carpet, you will follow a pattern. When we look at the history of the different countries in the world, very often we will also be able to see a pattern. How women in the United Kingdom got the vote Before 1800, women in the United Kingdom were second-class citizens. When a woman married, everything she owned became her husband’s property. Women did not have careers, go to university or practice law or medicine. Women could not vote or become Members of Parliament. Did you know? Under Islamic law, a woman always had the right to control her own property.
During the nineteenth century, in the United Kingdom, things began to change. Over the course of the century, laws were passed to give women more rights within marriage. But women especially wanted one very basic right - the right to vote. The technical term for the right to vote is “suffrage”. Therefore, women who fought for this right became known as the suffragettes. Arguments at the time why women should not receive the right to vote were: • Women did not have the right kind of mind to be able to make such complicated decisions, and they didn’t have enough experience with how the world works. Women were too gentle, kind and innocent – politics was a dirty business, and would only upset them. Women would not make their own decisions. They just would vote the way their husband told them to. This would be unfair to unmarried men – a married man would basically get two votes, his own and that of his wife, but an unmarried man would only have one vote.
The arguments in favor of women receiving the vote were: • • If women had to obey the laws, then women should be part of the process of making those laws. Maybe if more women were involved, politics would not be such a dirty business.
CHAPTER TWO : WOMEN AND POLITICS IN THE MODERN WORLD
Women were just as affected as men by political decisions, so they should be able to be a part of making them. For example, in a war women suffered as much as the men. Because women were different from men, they would bring in new ideas, and new ideas make for better decisions.
Those who are against equality usually do four kinds of things to discourage and stop women: 1. they make fun of them 2. they try to scare them 3. they say bad things about them to hurt their reputation 4. sometimes they even use force The opponents of women’s rights in the United Kingdom used these methods. They made fun of the women. They insulted them and ignored them. They tried to scare them by putting them in jail. And they used violence against them. The women knew how to defend themselves against this. Instead of feeling insulted by the word suffragettes, they took the name over and were proud of it. If they were ignored, they just said the same thing again, louder. These strategies can slow women down, but they can’t stop change from happening! The example of the United Kingdom shows this very clearly. In the United Kingdom in 1903, a group of women decided that the time had ﬁnally come for them to get the vote, and that they would not stop ﬁghting for it until they were successful. Emmeline Pankhurst and her daughter, Christabel, were the two most famous leaders of this group, which was called the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU). At ﬁrst, they tried to get their voting rights in quiet and polite ways. They wrote letters and tried to convince male politicians to let women vote. They published a magazine, in which they explained their reasons why women should be treated fairly and equally. But the politicians in parliament did not take them seriously, and did not respond. In 1905, there was going to be a General Election. The political parties were organizing meetings and rallies all across the country, to persuade the voters – all men – to vote for them. When a political party is trying to get elected, it tells people about its political platform – the list of things it believes in. None of the political parties mentioned voting rights for women as being part of their platform. The suffragettes went to these meetings. Usually, at the end of the meeting, members of the audience were invited to ask questions. On one particular evening, one of the members of the WSPU raised her hand and asked, ‘Will the Liberal party give votes to women?’ The speakers ignored her and did not even give her an answer. One of her friends repeated the question. Some of the men in the audience laughed at her. The man who was the main speaker smiled and did not answer. This
1 2 3 4 5
Emily Pankhurst, UK Alice Paul, USA Women march for their rights in America 1922 Suffragette supporters in England c. 1917 Suffragette banner “VOTES FOR WOMEN”
CHAPTER TWO : WOMEN AND POLITICS IN THE MODERN WORLD
made the women angry, so one of them got up on a chair and shouted her question again, “Will the Liberal Government give women the vote?” The police came and removed her from the hall. But she and her friends still did not give up. They organized a protest outside the hall. They were arrested. But what happened next was a surprise. It turned out that ordinary people had a lot of sympathy for the women and for the idea that women should be allowed to vote. Hundreds of men and women sent letters to the newspaper, supporting what the women were doing. This encouraged the women to start organizing marches. In 1906, hundreds of women held a large demonstration in London. They tried to march up to the Parliament and speak to the politicians, but they were arrested instead. However, their bravery was starting to really impress people. Some men politicians began to show support for them. The Secretary of the Interior even gave a speech in favor of votes for women. After that, there was an even bigger demonstration, the biggest one that had ever been seen in England. Seven separate marches took place, and the crowds who watched them joined in, shouting “Votes for Women, Votes for Women.” The government accepted the marchers’ resolution demanding immediate voting rights for women – but they still didn’t approve it. A week later 100,000 women gathered outside Parliament. The conservatives in the Parliament reacted negatively. They announced that they would not even debate the issue of women’s votes. They said they might discuss it in a few years, but not now. This made the women very angry, and some of their demonstrations became more violent. They threw stones and fought with police. The leaders of the suffragettes were arrested, and some had to ﬂee to another country, France, to lead the movement from there. Did you know? Which was the ﬁrst country in Europe to give women the right to vote? That country was Finland. In 1906, Finnish women became the ﬁrst in Europe to have the right to vote and to stand for elected ofﬁce. In the parliament election held in the following year almost ten percent of the seats were won by women! How did the Finnish women achieve such an early victory in the ﬁght for the right to vote? One reason was due to their participation in working life. Another reason was that Finnish women were very active in religious, social, health and educational organizations. This activity gave them experience in political life. Women’s organizations were also active in issues such as labor protection, the protection of children and maternity care, and they fought against prostitution and alcoholism. Finnish women are well represented in the parliament, where over one third of parliamentarians are women. Like France, Finland in 2005 also has a female Minister of Defense. Her previous job? The Minister of Equality Affairs.
By this time many ordinary people, and most of the newspapers and journalists, were on the side of the suffragettes. When the suffragettes went on hunger strikes, people became very upset and the politicians were worried.
OUR COUNTRY - MY ROLE They knew that the public would blame them if any of the jailed women died during their hunger strike. They ordered them to be released from prison. Then World War One broke out, and ordinary politics were interrupted. Everybody concentrated on defending their country. Millions of women took jobs, replacing the men who were going to war. They performed very difﬁcult work in military factories, ofﬁces and on farms – the kinds of work that before, people believed would be too difﬁcult for women and could only be done by men. Now, the women proved that they could do it just as well. The help of the women was so important that afterwards, nobody could ever say again that women were weak, or that they could not work exactly as well and do the same things as men. In 1918, women ﬁnally received the vote, and the right to be elected into parliament. What you can do! What are some patterns here? One pattern is that advances follow setbacks. In politics, you prove your seriousness by persistence. If one approach does not work, you must try another. In a democracy, if you are serious enough, and you can mobilize enough people to keep demanding something for long enough, loudly enough, eventually you will get it. We also learn from this example that we have to be persistent. Maybe you can change the world just by asking someone nicely, one time. But usually, it will require more trouble than that. Usually, you will have to keep trying in many different ways, for a long time. Usually people will listen to you if it is more trouble to ignore you than to listen. If it is easy to ignore you, then they will. In a later chapter, we will look at some of the different ways to inﬂuence political decisions. You won’t have to throw stones or get arrested! There are plenty of other things you can do. Every political movement needs different kinds of people. It needs some who are very brave – who are even willing to go to jail for their beliefs. It also needs some who are more cautious. Everyone is needed: those who march in the demonstrations and those who stand on the sidelines, encouraging them by waving. Those who are ready to be arrested, and those who stay at home but write a letter to the newspaper in support of the activists. Everyone must decide for herself how brave she can be, how many risks she can take. Even if you want to be very careful, there is still a lot that you can do, and you are still important.
How women in the United States got the vote American women did not become active in politics just to get more rights for themselves. They became active because there were important social issues that they felt strongly about but were unable to inﬂuence without having a political voice. This was in the 19th Century, 200 years ago. One of the issues these women cared about deeply was the question of slavery. They believed that it was wrong to keep other human beings as slaves. But in those days, it was permitted in the United States to keep black people as slaves. These women believed in equality - not only between men and women, but also between black people and white people. Another issue women cared about at this time was temperance, which means the belief that alcohol should be forbidden. Alcohol misuse in those days was
CHAPTER TWO : WOMEN AND POLITICS IN THE MODERN WORLD
destroying many families. Many men would receive their paycheck, then go to a bar and spend the entire month’s salary getting drunk. There would be no money left for food for their wife and children. Many women therefore believed that alcohol should be prohibited. Whatever the issue that was important to them, women found that they had no inﬂuence over the laws, and that politicians did not listen to them because they could not vote. Women tried many different things to achieve the right to vote. They held a large meeting in Seneca Falls to discuss their strategies, and to get publicity for their plan. They published magazines and collected petitions and signatures. They organized marches and demonstrations. They gathered outside the White House, where the U.S. President lives and works, holding signs demanding the right to vote. Some of the women chained themselves to the White House fence so police could not send them away. Beginning in 1878, the rule that would have allowed women to vote was presented to the American Congress during each session. It was denied many times. Each time it was denied, the women did not give up. Instead, they immediately worked to get it presented again. Finally, it passed. Just as in England, World War I was a turning point for American women, too. Women played such an important and active role, helping to defend their country and efﬁciently replacing men in factories and the workplace, that it just wasn’t possible any more to say that they were less capable than men. American women received the right to vote only in summer 1920, more than 40 years after the rule was ﬁrst presented to Congress.
Did you know? Women as Heads of State In July 2005, Forbes Magazine published a list of The 100 Most Powerful Women, which included 26 world leaders. Some of the countries currently under the leadership of a woman are Ukraine, Philippines, Ireland, New Zealand, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Finland, Latvia and Mozambique. Some of these are small countries. Latvia has a population of 2.5 million. Some are very large. Bangladesh has a population of 140 million, Indonesia of 240 million. You can see a selection of these leaders in a picture in this handbook. Other women play powerful roles in their own countries and in the world such as Michèle Alliot-Marie, who is Minister of Defence in France, and Louise Fréchette, who is Secretary General Koﬁ Annan’s deputy at the United Nations. Traditionally, women are often appointed to be Minister of Health or Minister of Education. However, from 1960 to 2005, there have also been 46 women Ministers of Defence. Since 1947, 85 women have served as Minister of Foreign Affairs. This includes countries that are neighbours of Afghanistan: Pakistan has had women Ministers of Defence, and of Atomic Energy. Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan have had women Ministers of Foreign Affairs. In 2005, thirty-nine countries are represented in the United Nations by women ambassadors. Of those countries, the following have a majority Muslim population, just like Afghanistan:
• • • Algeria Kuwait Malaysia • • • Bosnia and Herzegovina Kyrgyzstan Turkmenistan • • Egypt Libya
Pictures from the internet, used with thanks. Credit: The State of Women in the World, by Joni Seager, PBS Website
WOMEN AS HEADS
S TAT E
CHAPTER TWO : WOMEN AND POLITICS IN THE MODERN WORLD
What do you think? Worldwide, fewer women than men tend to vote. What do you think would happen if women began to vote in equal proportion to men? Do you think women’s vote would signiﬁcantly change national policies? Would women worldwide vote differently than men? Why or why not? Afghanistan also passed through years of war. Did Afghan women perform responsibilities previously assigned to men? What are some examples? Did they receive recognition and credit for this, in the same way that British and American women did? Why or why not? If you were in favour of women’s right to vote, what arguments would you use? If you were against women’s suffrage, what arguments might you use? Have you heard anyone use these arguments? How might you answer them? What other social causes were related to the women´s suffrage movement in the U.S and the United Kingdom? Which other causes, besides women’s rights, do you think are most important to Afghan women?
We’ve seen already that it takes patience, persistence and courage to build a more equal society. It doesn’t happen all at once. The case of Egypt shows us some of the stepping-stones. Another thing is interesting about this list. It is posted on the internet, as part of the ofﬁcial Egyptian government information service. The Egyptian government is today proud of the advances made by Egyptian women – in fact they are so proud of it, that this is one of the things they like to tell the world about when they introduce their country. But as you will see when you study the list, at the time, the Egyptian government supported women in some areas such as education, but it opposed their attempts to get legal and political equality. Did you know? Women in some countries of Asia and the Middle East won the right to vote earlier than many Western nations: Lebanon (1926); Sri Lanka (1931); Thailand (1932); and the Philippines (1937).
This is often true not only for the case of women, but for all those who work to reform and improve their society and to make it more fair – at the time, many obstacles are put in their way, they are laughed at and problems are caused for them, but afterwards, everybody is so proud of them.
OUR COUNTRY - MY ROLE
How women in Egypt got the vote 1873 1892 1888 1901 1908 1911 1914 1919 First primary school for girls opened. The magazine “Al-Fatât” (Girl), the ﬁrst women’s magazine printed in Egypt, is started in Alexandria by Hind Nawfal. Qasim Amin, a great Egyptian reformer and philosopher, publishes “Tahrir Al-Mara’a” (Women’s Emancipation). Qasim Amin publishes “Al-Mara’a Al-Jadida” (The New Woman). Fatima Rashid starts the magazine Majallat Tarqiyat Al-Mara. Malak Hifni Nasif, a reformer, presents ten demands to the Egyptian Legislature. All are rejected. The Educational Union of Women is founded in Cairo. Hoda Sha’rawi leads a demonstration of women in support of Egyptian nationalism. It is the ﬁrst time women demonstrate. They wear veils. Women participate in mixed demonstrations with men. The ﬁrst secondary school for girls is opened. Hoda Sha’rawi attends the International Alliance for Women conference in Rome, Italy. She, and the rest of the delegation of Egyptian women, decide to put away their veils. When they return to Egypt, they do not wear the veil anymore. Many other women follow their example. A new constitution is approved. It provides that elementary education is to be free and compulsory for girls as well as boys. The ﬁrst girls are sent abroad for advanced degrees. “Rose al-Youssef”, a political magazine, is founded in Cairo by Fatma al-Youssef, a former actress. It soon becomes the leading weekly news magazine, read by men as well as women. The ﬁrst female students enter Cairo University. The Egyptian Feminist Union, founded in 1923, for the ﬁrst time calls for equal political rights for women. The Egyptian Feminist Union publishes its own magazine, AlMasreyya (The Egyptian Woman). The Eastern Feminist Conference meets. The main question of discussion is Palestine. The United Nations is founded, and Egypt is a founding member. The League of Arab States is formed, also with Egypt as a founding member. Doria Shaﬁk founds a new political party just for women, “Bint Al Nil” (Daughters of the Nile).
1919 1921 1923
1924 1925 1926
1928 1935 1937 1938 1945
CHAPTER TWO : WOMEN AND POLITICS IN THE MODERN WORLD
Parliamentary elections are held. There is political unrest. Mobs burn many sections of Cairo. Members of Bint Al Nil occupy parliament brieﬂy, and demand representation for women. There is a military takeover. The constitution is abolished. Political activity in general is forbidden. A new constitution is promulgated. It gives women the right to vote. Most of the private sector of the Egyptian economy is nationalized. Higher education is made free. Hekmat Abu Zaid becomes the ﬁrst woman appointed to the Cabinet. She is Minister of Social Affairs. Anwar Sadat becomes President of Egypt. Dr. Aisha Rateb becomes Minister of Social Affairs. Dr. Amal Othman becomes Minister of Social Affairs. A new law reserves a quota of 30 seats for women in The People’s Assembly. At the local government level, between 10% and 20% of seats on local councils are reserved for women. The Personal Status Laws are reformed, giving women more equality in divorce, alimony and child custody. Dr. Aisha Rateb becomes the ﬁrst woman ambassador appointed by Egypt. The Shura Consultative Council is formed, including 7 women. President Sadat arrests 1500 people for political security reasons. This number includes several women. The Higher Constitutional Court declares the improved Personal Status Laws to be unconstitutional on procedural grounds. Two months later, the People’s Assembly passes the same laws again, and this time they stand. The National Council on Childhood and Motherhood is founded. Mrs. Mubarak, the wife of the President, becomes chairperson of the National Committee on Women. A special conference is held to honor the “100th Anniversary of Arab Women’s Emancipation”.
1952 1959 1961 1962 1970 1971 1977 1978
1979 1980 1985
1988 1994 1999
OUR COUNTRY - MY ROLE How women in Iran got the vote As early as the 19th century, Iranian women organized themselves to put women’s issues on the political agenda. However, they were denied the right to vote in 1906 when the country obtained its ﬁrst Constitution. Disappointed by this, women began to organize themselves in secret and semi-secret associations, and started to raise funds and establish schools for girls. In 1932 the country’s Patriotic Women’s League organized an Oriental Women’s Congress in Tehran in 1932. The intention was to discuss with women from Lebanon, Egypt, Iraq, Turkey and India issues such as women’s education and the abolition of polygamy. During the Second World War, the Women’s Center and the Women’s League appeared on the political scene. Saﬁyeh Firuz, a long-standing committed women activist, established a women’s party in 1942. The party aimed to promote women’s legal and social status and raise awareness about women’s issues. Fatemeh Sayyah, a leading intellectual and writer on women’s concerns, became the party’s secretary. She actively lobbied the Iranian Parliament (Majlis) to raise the issue of women’s suffrage. In 1963, Iranian women received their right to vote and be elected in a national referendum. The Women’s Organization of Iran took over the role of all the smaller associations. The greatest contribution of the Women’s Organization was its successful lobbying for a Family Protection Law, which came into force in 1967 and placed signiﬁcant limits on polygamous marriage. After the Islamic revolution of 1979, the Family Protection Law was abolished, women were barred from becoming judges and were forced to wear the hijab in public and at their workplaces. One of the women who had to give up their post as judge was Shirin Ebadi. In 1975, she had been the ﬁrst female judge in Iran. In 2003, she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for her support of human rights. After 1997, some educated women and political activists began to actively campaign for women’s issues. They criticised the abolition of the Family Protection Law. They believed that Islamic scholarship had been one-sided, because the religion was only being interpreted from the point of view of men. It was important, they thought, for women to study and interpret the texts for themselves. Due to their efforts, the Iranian parliament adopted a new Family Law which gave back many of the legal rights to women. Another success was the passing of the “wages for household” law in 1992. This law gave women the right to receive payment for their labor from their husbands should they ask for divorce. Also, women were again allowed to be judges. In political life, Iranian women have been elected to all four parliaments. In the parliamentary election of 1996, 179 women were announced as ﬁnal candidates for 84 districts. Female voters are strong participants in the elections of the Islamic Republic of Iran. They played a decisive role in electing President Khatami.
CHAPTER TWO : WOMEN AND POLITICS IN THE MODERN WORLD
The link between political rights and business Across the Arab world, there is a deﬁnite link between women gaining more political rights and the increase in women’s participation in business. In October 2002, for the ﬁrst time ever, the Gulf state of Bahrain allowed women to vote and run for national ofﬁce. At the same time, women’s business networks have mushroomed across the Middle East. Arab ﬁrst ladies such as Suzanne Mubarak of Egypt and Queen Rania in Jordan, who also helped form the Arab Women’s Organization, support these networks. There has been a quiet but dramatic shift in Arab attitudes over the last two or three years. “Now it is very politically correct to address women’s issues,” says Haifa Fahoum Al Kaylani, chair of the Arab International Women’s Forum in London. “It is like a competition between Arab governments to encourage women to enter business and the political process.” The rise of this women’s movement has been partly due to investment in education by Arab rulers in the 1970s. The literacy rate for women in the Arab world has since tripled, while school education rates have doubled. In Bahrain last year, women held more university degrees than men. Even in Saudi Arabia, the government is creating jobs for women as part of its economic strategy. In Bahrain, Mona Yousuf Al Moayyed, the ﬁrst woman to be elected to the board of the Bahraini Chamber of Commerce and Industry, is one of the region’s role models. She is managing director of a family trading business, called Y.K. Almoayyed, which experienced 20% growth last year. She manages 1,000 people. Regulations in Bahrain guarantee women’s right to work and they treat them as equal to men. The number of women in Bahrain’s labor force increased from just over 5% in 1971 to almost 40% last year. There have been recent political movements in many Arab countries to expand women’s political rights. In Qatar, women were allowed to vote and run for ofﬁce in the country’s ﬁrst municipal elections in March 2004. Oman’s Emir in 2003 included two women in the Consultative Council, while Bahrain selected its ﬁrst women ambassador. In Saudi Arabia, there are indications that women might gain the right to vote in 2009. This would be a signiﬁcant move for a country that has been very closed to outside inﬂuences of the modern world. The public will watch and wait to see that Saudi Arabia’s women will be given full and proper suffrage rights at that time. Good news has also come from Kuwait. Until 2005, Kuwait was the only country in the world where men could vote but women were denied this right. Although this important freedom was withheld from them, Kuwaiti women have made advances wherever they could. They can drive and travel and they work in almost every professional ﬁeld. Women in Kuwait are among the highest educated in the Arab world – 41 per cent of all university graduates in Kuwait are women. Their performance in schools and universities is signiﬁcantly better than that of men, which makes employers prefer to hire women. More than one third of Kuwait’s workforce is female.
OUR COUNTRY - MY ROLE As early as the 1950’s, Kuwait women organised demonstrations, ﬁghting for the right to vote and to be elected. They organised conferences, public marches, and gathered supporters. They submitted several bills to parliament and ﬁled lawsuits against the government. The parliament’s refusal to give women the right to vote violated Kuwait’s 1961 Constitution, which says that the government shall be democratic and ensure equal opportunities for its citizens. Kuwait also ratiﬁed the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). Fatima al-Abdali, the head of the Women’s Issues Committee, has spent the last ten years campaigning for Kuwaiti women’s right to vote and to hold ofﬁce. “They tell us it’s not the right time, as though they have some kind of chart of the right time. You’ll never ﬁnd the whole society facing in the same direction. If you wait for that time, it will never come”, she says. On 15 May 2005, Kuwait’s parliament ﬁnally decided on a change in the electoral law, which allows Kuwaiti women to vote and stand for election. Although the decision came too late for Kuwait’s women to participate in the municipal elections held in June 2005, this step opened the door for them to participate in the 2007 parliamentary elections and the local elections in 200__. Following the June 2005 local elections, the government of Kuwait named for the ﬁrst time ever two women as members of its municipal council, and only two weeks later the ﬁrst female cabinet minister was sworn in. Massouma al-Mubarak, a political science professor and newspaper writer, was appointed planning minister. She said that her appointment was “a great victory for Kuwaiti women.” “It’s a great day for Kuwait’s women who have struggled and persevered persistently to gain their full political rights.”
What do you think? Do you think women in Kuwait will be more politically active once they achieve their rights because they had to ﬁght for them in comparison to other countries where women take these rights for granted? What are some similarities between the Kuwaiti women and the British women? Should you give up if you are not successful the ﬁrst, second, or even third time you try to demand your rights? Women normally comprise 50% of the population. Why doesn´t this translate into 50% of the seats won? Would you vote for a female if she was a good candidate? Would you consider running for ofﬁce yourself? Why or why not? Under what circumstances? If you did, what issues would be the most important to you? Is there a law you would like to pass?
Afghanistan´s place in the story of women´s suffrage The new constitution As of 4 January 2004, Afghanistan has a new constitution which provides that women and men “are equal before the law”. This includes equal political rights such as the right to vote and the right to be elected.
CHAPTER TWO : WOMEN AND POLITICS IN THE MODERN WORLD
The constitution states that Afghanistan will be led by a president who is to be elected directly by the people. The parliament will be made up of two houses, the House of Elders and the House of People. Members to the House of People will be directly elected. 25 percent of the seats in the House of People are reserved for women. Women can also stand for election for an unreserved seat. There is no top limit to how many women can be elected. As we can see when we compare this with some of the other stories we just read, it looks as if the women of Afghanistan now have a good starting point. They don’t have to ﬁght for the right to vote. With 25% guaranteed seats, they have a head start to make up for the difﬁculties they can otherwise expect to face. What do you think? What do people believe in the area where you live? What would be the opinions of some of your neighbors, concerning these questions?
What is an opinion poll? Political leaders and politicians are supposed to represent the people of their country. Newspaper journalists are supposed to write things that will interest the people who buy the newspaper. Radio programs should contain things that people like to listen to. But how can politicians, journalists, radio announcers and others know what people like, what they want and what they are interested in? Can they just guess? One way for them to get information about the thinking of the population is through opinion polls. It takes too long and is too difﬁcult and too expensive to ask everybody their opinion. So we ask some people. However we can’t ask just anybody – or we might get the completely wrong impression. Probably you have a relative whose opinion is usually different from that of everybody else. Imagine if the opinion poll asked only that relative? They would get the wrong idea. For an opinion poll, we have to choose a group that represents the whole country. We have to choose people from different parts of Afghanistan – from Her-at and Mazar-I-Sharif, not just from Kabul. We have to choose people from big cities, little towns and villages. We have to talk to old people and to young people, to men and to women. The group we talk to is called a sample. For example, let’s say you wanted to ﬁnd out what the women in a particular village like to hear on the radio. You will need to think about what kind of women live in your village. How many are young, middle aged, or old? You shouldn’t just ask the young ones, but you should make sure to talk to some in each age group. The study we told you about went all over the country to talk to people. They talked to people who were literate and people who were illiterate, to young people and old ones, to women and men.
OUR COUNTRY - MY ROLE Afghan Women go to register so that they can vote in the elections “Afghans have been quick to understand the importance of elections for their future, and some groups have held rallies to promote female registration. Some registration centers overﬂowed with women eager to sign up to vote for the ﬁrst time. Families helped grandmothers climb schoolroom steps to put their thumbprints on voter ID cards. “We came because we want to vote for a proper government and a fair president. It is our right now,” said Gul Alai, 35, a housewife who had just signed up to vote in the Taimony district of Kabul. Did you know? In 2004, a group of 12 organizations went around to talk to Afghans all over the country, and ask them their views about politics, democracy, and the role of women. Here is what they learned: • • Most Afghans are very positive and hopeful about democracy and elections. They want Afghanistan to be part of the modern world. In general, both Afghan men and Afghan women were well informed about political events in the country. 70% knew that elections were going to be held. Of those, 87% planned to vote in the elections. 73% thought that having a national election would be good for the country. 72% thought that women should be involved in making decisions about their community and their country, not only about things in their family. Only 17% thought they should not.
The organizations that were asking the questions in this survey also asked people WHY they thought this. Why did they think women should be involved? They were given two reasons. • • First, because this is the natural right of women, given to them by Islam. Second, because they are half the population and therefore have the right to participate in the life of their society.
The survey found big differences among the different parts and regions of Afghanistan. These differences are especially obvious when it comes to the question of women’s role and women’s rights. Most of the people who did NOT think women had the same right to participate, lived in Gardez, Zaranj and Kandahar. In Gardez and Zaranj, only half the people who were asked thought that women should participate. The survey found that education made a big difference to people’s opinions. Those who had been to school and were more educated were more likely to believe that women should participate. People who were not educated more often thought that women should not take part. The Human Rights
Research and Advocacy Consortium, Speaking Out: Afghan Opinions on Rights and Responsibilities, Nov. 2003
“I came here because I want to vote for peace and security,” said Khanum Gul, 55, pulling the cover down over her face as she emerged from the registration hall. “We had nothing but war for so long. Now, I just want to have a normal life, where my daughters can go to school and work and not have to stay home anymore.” This was taken from a newspaper report; the Washington Post, Feb. 2004. In the past, Afghanistan has been part of great empires. As part of the route of the famous Silk Road, it was at the very center of international commerce. In the modern era, however, Afghanistan has been a very poor country.
CHAPTER TWO : WOMEN AND POLITICS IN THE MODERN WORLD
What do you think? The above report talks about three women who are going to register. One of them is an old lady, and her family is proud to be helping her take part in this big moment in the country’s history. Which member of your family, or which one of your friends, might feel proud when they go to vote? The second and third women tell us a little about why they want to vote, and what is important to them. Are these things that are also important to you? What would you say if someone asked you what you care about the most? Or if they asked what kind of a government you want?
UNDP Arab Human Development Report 2002
In 2002, a group of Arab scholars conducted a careful study to look for the reasons why the Middle East and the Muslim countries beyond are suffering from so much poverty and underdevelopment. They found three things that are necessary if a society is to grow and prosper: 1. There must be political justice and people must be free to say their opinions and to express themselves culturally in art and media. 2. There must be a good education system that prepares young people for practical life. 3. Women have to be able to participate in public life and society, and to have good health and education. Why are these three things so important? The ﬁrst one is necessary to make sure that a country is governed in the best interest of its people, that its resources are fairly divided, and that its culture remains alive and vibrant. The second one is necessary if you want to have a productive economy: smart citizens who can solve the problems of their own families, their own lives, and their country. The third is necessary, too. If women are not healthy and if they are forced to marry at a very young age then their children will not be healthy and many of them will not live. If women are not educated, they will not know how to raise healthy, intelligent children. If women do not have jobs, half of the income of a country and a family is lost. If women don’t have political rights, there can be no democracy. These are three important things you need if you want your country to experience progress and prosperity. However, not everybody wants progress and prosperity. Some people would rather have other things: • • • • Power for themselves Power for their particular ethnic or political group Wealth only for themselves A world where men can feel more important and valuable than women, and where women have no say
Also, when things change, some people become afraid. They’re not sure the change will be good. They are afraid of losing things that are important to them. They might be afraid of losing their place in society.
OUR COUNTRY - MY ROLE
If we look at earlier attempts to improve the situation of Afghanistan, we will ﬁnd that these two groups described above were the ones who fought against efforts to reform the country and to repair its problems. Reforms were opposed by: • those who didn’t care if things were bad for most people, as long as they were good for them, and • those who were afraid of the changes. What you can do! If you want to know more about women in history who fought for their rights, you could read about them on the internet at these addresses. These sites are in the English language; perhaps you know some other ones you can add to the list. www.britannica.com/women/articles/woman_suffrage.html http://lcweb2.loc.gov/ammem/naw/nawstime.html www.womeninworldhistory.com/factLesson4.html www.europarl.eu.int/enlargement/brieﬁngs/26a3_en.htm www.un.org/womenwatch/asp/user/list.asp?ParentID=7004 www.womenhistory.about.com www.guide2womenleaders.com As we already learned, Afghan women have some important advantages compared to women in other countries. Instead of having to ﬁght hard for their rights, they have repeatedly received their rights without a struggle, because someone who happened to be in power believed that this was the right thing to do. However, they also have repeatedly lost these rights, when whoever was in power and had given them these rights was overthrown. This pattern reveals a very serious disadvantage faced by Afghan women. In Afghanistan, the question of women, their place in society and how many rights they should have, has usually gotten tangled up with other issues that people were ﬁghting over. Instead of being treated as what they are – half of the population, with rights and interests and problems of their own – women have usually been treated as a symbol. Like two cats ﬁghting over a mouse, groups that fought against each other in Afghanistan almost always fought over the question of how women should be treated. It isn’t good to be a mouse, pulled apart by two cats. Usually, no matter which cat wins, the result will be bad for the mouse. The big challenge for Afghan women is how to stop being the mouse that other people play with and to think for themselves about their interests and the kind of life and world they want. They must begin to take charge of their own political fate. While they received basic democratic rights without having to struggle for them, the “pattern” tells us that they will probably have to ﬁght to have these rights become real, instead of just remaining on paper. For example, child marriage and forced marriages were outlawed almost 40 years ago, but they continued to be practiced. For the law and the constitution to become a real and living part of a country, the people must understand their rights and claim them.
CHAPTER TWO : WOMEN AND POLITICS IN THE MODERN WORLD
Important changes for women in the modern history of Afghanistan 1885 King Abdurrahman introduces legal reforms that improve the status of women. He abolishes the custom of levirate marriage (where a widow is forced to marry her deceased husband’s brother), raises the age of marriage, and gives women a limited right to initiate divorce. King Habibullah continues with further reforms. He prohibits the practice of overly expensive weddings, which are ruining many families. His wives stop wearing the veil in order to encourage other women to do this also, if they want to. King Amanullah and his wife, Queen Soraya, are interested in what other countries have done to make their societies more equal, modern and prosperous. They are especially fascinated by Turkey, where Kemal Ataturk is achieving enormous changes. They decide to follow this example. King Amanullah creates a constitutional monarchy. He outlaws slavery and forced labour. He forms an elected assembly and a modern new system of laws and courts. He introduces mandatory and free education for both girls and boys. He sends girls abroad to be educated as nurses. Queen Soraya sponsors schools, and her mother and sister participate in these efforts. She starts a social welfare organization, Anjuman-I-Himayat-Niswan and founds the ﬁrst women’s weekly magazine, Irshad-I-Niswan.
Queen Soraya’s speech, 1926 “Do not think that our nation needs only men to serve it. Women should also take their part, as women did in the early years of Islam. The valuable services rendered by women are recounted throughout history, from which we learn that women were not created solely for pleasure and comfort. From their examples we learn that we must all contribute toward the development of our nation, and that this cannot be done without being equipped with knowledge.”
1959 King Zahir Shah announces that women are not obliged to stay in purdah or wear a chaddri, but that this is to be voluntary. He builds girls’ schools and hospitals for women. The new Afghan constitution gives women the right to vote and the right to be educated. Four women are elected to the ﬁrst parliament. A woman becomes Minister of Health. The ﬁrst women’s organization is formed, the Voluntary Organization of Afghan Women. Its main goals are to empower the poor and to advance cottage industry among women. The Soviet Union occupies Afghanistan. Five million Afghans ﬂee the country and become refugees in Pakistan, Iran and many other countries. The Mujahedeen, having driven out the Soviets with the help of the United States, enter Kabul. During this time, women are 40% of Kabul’s doctors, 70% of teachers, 50% of civil servants, and 50% of university students. However, women were forced to cover their heads and to wear shalwar. Soon, civil war breaks out again. Life becomes miserable and insecure, especially for women, and due to insecurity many women are obliged to leave their jobs and sit at home. The Taliban enter Kabul. Initially, people are hopeful that they will
OUR COUNTRY - MY ROLE bring peace. However, their interpretation of Islam restricts the life of women more than ever before. They close girls schools and stop women from working outside. All women were forced to wear chadari and not to appear in public without a male relative. Music and entertainment are banned and women are banned from many ordinary activities. Irreplaceable parts of Afghanistan’s rich history are destroyed, including the Bamiyan Buddhas. The Northern Alliance ﬁghts to prevent them from taking over the entire country 2001 The US-led forces enter Afghanistan and the Taliban leadership loses all power. Various Afghan factions meet in Bonn, Germany, to create an Interim Government. Several women participate in this conference, and the interim government includes two women ministers. The Bonn Agreement decides on a plan which will lead to an independent Afghan democracy. Women are part of each step of this plan. 200 women delegates attend the Emergency Loya Jirga. A woman is elected Vice-Chair of the Loya Jirga. Another woman, Dr. Massouda Jalal, runs for the position of President. She gives a speech which is greatly applauded by the audience, and she receives over 300 votes, more than any of the other candidates challenging the current president. The current cabinet includes four women who have the rank of a minister. The Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission includes ﬁve women and is chaired by a woman. Two women lawyers take part in the commission which drafts the Afghan constitution. The constitutional Loya Jirga, including 160 women delegates, ratiﬁes the new constitution, which recognizes the equality of men and women. October 2004. The ﬁrst presidential election takes place and women make up 42% of the total number of registered voters.
Famous women in Afghan History Roxana When Alexander the Great invaded Central Asia, his armies caused enormous damage, destroying everything in their path. But in 329 BC, they arrived in the kingdom of Bactria – part of what is today called Afghanistan. To save their country, Bactrian princess Roxana and her father Oxyartes negotiated a marriage with him instead. This marriage helped Alexander as well, since it encouraged the people of this region to accept the foreign invader as their leader and not rebel against him. However, later Alexander decided to use this same method somewhere else. He married another wife, the Persian princess Statira. Roxana was very angry about this. The rivalry between the two women contributed to the downfall of Alexander’s empire. After the death of Alexander, the supporters of Statira murderer his mother, his wife Roxana, and their son who was also named Alexander. Rabia Balkhi Rabia Balkhi was the daughter of one of the Samanid rulers. She loved poetry, which was popular at her parents’ court, and she herself composed poems in Dari and in Arabic. Rabia’s brother had a highly educated slave, Bakhtash, and he and Rabia fell in love with each other. They wrote love poems to each other. Rabia loved him so much that she could do nothing else but write poetry for him all day long. However, once their love was discovered, Bakhtash was sent away from court and murdered. When Rabia learned of this, she killed herself. Her ﬁnal message was a poem written on the wall with her own blood.
CHAPTER TWO : WOMEN AND POLITICS IN THE MODERN WORLD
Queen Gawhar Shad At the end of the 14th and the start of the 15th century, this Queen ruled an empire that had its capital in Herat and reached from the Tigris River all the way to China. Her reign lasted for 50 years; the last ten years, after the death of her husband King Shah Rukh, she ruled it alone. Even during his lifetime, she was more interested in governing and more involved in the affairs of the state than her husband, who was the youngest son of Timurlane. Queen Gawhar Shad gave great support to the arts and to culture, and during her rule, many famous monuments were built and philosophical texts written. Poetry and art ﬂourished at her court. Her son, Ulegh Beg, became a famous scientist and astronomer, as well as becoming the king after her death. She is considered one of the most famous and powerful women in world history. Some of the buildings constructed under her direction can still be seen in Herat today. The ﬁve minarets of Herat are all that is left of a huge musalla complex she built, which originally included a mosque, a school, and a mausoleum. Aisha e-Durrani Aisha was educated in Arabic literature, Dari, and History by private tutors. She was the special pupil of Timur Shah, and recieted her ﬁrst poems at his court. She became well know because of her writing, but both her son and her father were killed while they were ﬁghting in wars, and most of her poems are sad, reﬂecting these tragedies. A school in her name stands in Kabul, and is today being supported by the government of Germany She died 1235 H. / 1856 BC. Malalai In 1880, during ﬁghting against the British colonial occupation, an Afghan soldier who was carrying the Afghan ﬂag was killed. Malalai took the ﬂag from him and continued to carry it forward. Through her brave act, Malalai became a powerful symbol of resistance against all enemies. Queen Soraya Soraya came from a politically active family. Her father was Mahmud Beg Tarzi, a famous writer and newspaper editor and an admirer of the reforms of Ataturk. He ensured that his daughter received a good education. She married King Amanullah and became Queen in 1919. She opened the ﬁrst girls’ school in Afghanistan in 1921; graduates of this school were later sent to Turkey to take degrees in nursing, and upon their return, worked in the ﬁrst women’s hospital in Kabul. What do you think? These women are very different from each other, and the reasons for which they became known, are also very different. Which one do you admire the most? Why? If you could write a new ending for the story of Rabia Balkhi, what would it be? You can interrupt her story at any point you want, and write any ending you like. Now imagine that you are Queen Gawhar Shad. You are the ruler of Afghanistan. Everyone listens to you. You can build anything you want. What would you build? What laws would you pass? What things would you change? If you were going to choose a group of people to help, which one would it be?
AFGHAN WOMEN’S MOVEMENT
8 Malalai, women’s magazine 9 Journalist Jamila Mujahed 10 Dr. Sima Samar 11 Loya Jirga delegates 12 President Hamid Karzai receives the Women’s Bill of Rights from NGO leaders.
1 2 3 4 5 6 7
King Zahir Shah and Queen Homaira King Amir Habibullah and Queen Ulya Janab Flight Attendants on Ariana Airlines Girls high school photograph Queen Gawhar Shah’s monument Army and police ofﬁcers Bettina Goislard, UNHCR
CHAPTER TWO : WOMEN AND POLITICS IN THE MODERN WORLD
The Candidate story
Dr. Massouda Jalal – ﬁrst female presidential candidate in Afghan history
was a proud moment for Massouda Jalal when she stood as Afghanistan’s ﬁrst female presidential candidate at the Emergency Loya Jirga in June 2002. She had made an incredible journey in such a short time, but she was always sure that she would get there. It began when the district elections were taking place and Massouda told her family she would like to be a candidate. There were only a few days for her to register. Then her husband helped her to make a poster about her, to the houses which they took and posted in the streets of her neighbourhood. This was the night before the election. Massouda had thought: “I have proved my worth. I have stayed and helped my here, worked people in the worst days of their lives. I know their suffering in each and every dimension. If it is a matter of honesty, I shall be trusted.” The next day, Massouda won the district election. On the way home, her husband said; “Let me bring you a ﬂower”. Massouda in one moment realised her possibilities and said: “You can bring me a ﬂower when I am President of Afghanistan!”. Massouda Jalal was born in Karpisa province. Her father, Tela Mohammad, was head of a factory. She went to elementary school in Karpisa before moving to the capital, where she attended high school and then entered the medical faculty at Kabul University. She became a psychiatrist in 1989 and worked in psychiatry and pediatrics at various hospitals in the city. Later, she married Faizullah Jalal, who teaches in the law faculty at Kabul University. The couple have three children together. Massouda worked throughout the civil wars and the Taleban regime, and during this time, she became the head of a women’s programme for the United Nations. In 1998, she began working as a health adviser for the UN World Food Programme. She was once arrested by the Taleban religious police for working, but was later released with no harm after interventions from her oﬃce. Her husband has been a solid ally, sometimes driving her to her places of work for her safety and now acting as her spokesperson. Faizullah Jalal is himself a charismatic supporter of women’s rights. When Massouda presented herself as a presidential candidate at the Emergency Loya Jirga in June 2002, it was quite a surprise. She does not belong to any political party or faction so she stood as an independent candidate. “Even very, very conservative, discriminating people ... are telling me ‘Yes, we think that a woman can bring national unity because women were never involved in the conﬂict,’” she
OUR COUNTRY - MY ROLE
says. In the time leading up to the Loya Jirga meeting, Massouda worked to gain supporters. She does not pretend that this was easy. There was criticism, and even threatening telephone calls, and her husband was also taunted. But Massouda did not give up, even when Hamid Karzai approached her to oﬀer her a position in his government if she withdrew her candidacy. She says that she always had it in her heart to be a leader for the right reasons and not for political or personal gain. “I have been thinking about this for 23 years when I see our people suﬀering, dying of poverty. I would always think, what is our way out of these problems? Now the opportunity has come,” she says. “I am an Afghan woman and I am qualiﬁed to be a leader of this country. That is all that matters.” That day in June 2002, Jalal won praise for her short speech. “I am your sister and if you want me as a leader than I will be your leader,” she said. Although Hamid Karzai gained the most votes, Massouda Jalal came second. She does not regret her eﬀorts. “I wanted to prove Afghan women can be a political force,” she says. “The world will now know that Afghan women have the capacity. It enhances the position of Afghan women. After this, people will take us more seriously.” Massouda Jalal ran as a presidential candidate in the presidential elections autumn 2004. Hamid Karzai, who won the presidential election, appointed her Minister of Women’s Aﬀairs.
OUR COUNTRY - MY ROLE
CHAPTER THREE: CIVIL SOCIETY
What is civil society? Civil society is a difﬁcult term to deﬁne because it means different things to different people. It can be described as that part of society that acts between the government and the home, for the beneﬁt of society. Simply put, civil society is when people organize themselves in groups to do something or campaign for an issue they care about. Examples of groups in civil society include: volunteer and charity groups; parent and teacher associations; senior citizens groups; universities; sports clubs; arts and culture groups; faith groups; workers’ clubs and trades unions; study or research groups; and activist groups. By deﬁnition, all such civic groups are non-governmental organizations (NGOs). Civil society can be organized at the local, national and international level. It can be as small as the local group working for better road safety or as large as Oxfam, an international relief organization. Why do we need government AND civil society? In every democracy, the people give the government the authority to exercise power on their behalf. The government has many fundamental duties, including defending the independence, national sovereignty and territorial integrity of the country; making sure that all children can go to school; expanding the service of electricity, roads and communications. Even in the most developed countries, governments cannot do everything that they should do. They have to make choices about what to do and where to spend the available money. Sometimes governments make mistakes or cannot work well, or they are not aware of certain needs and problems, or they choose to ignore problems. When this happens people can suffer. A good government makes fair laws and programs that care for the needs and rights of all. However, in a productive, modern and prospering society, people do not only rely on the government or some other “authority” to do everything for them, to solve all their problems; or to have all the right ideas. No matter how good the government is, how smart the politicians are and how much money the state has, the government cannot possibly do everything. This is especially true for a country like Afghanistan, where the government is not rich, but has an enormous number of things that must be done and built and ﬁxed. However, civil society cannot function meaningfully when the government does not allow a different point of view from their own. There are many countries around the world who had to gradually build a civil society. For example those countries which have abandoned socialist and communist regimes after 1989 such as Russia and the eastern European countries and central Asian countries like Kirgystan. Afghanistan is in a similar position because for many years views different from those of the authorities were also not permitted. Civil society in Afghanistan Civil society groups can be organizations. The size of these organizations can vary. Amnesty International is a big organization with ofﬁces and members all
CHAPTER THREE : CIVIL SOCIETY
around the world. This organization monitors the situation of people who are suffering because their human rights are being violated. They draw attention to cases where people are being unfairly treated by their government. They hope to make governments more responsible and citizens more aware all over the world. The Sandy Gall’s Afghanistan Appeal is a small organization and only operates in Afghanistan. It helps people who have lost limbs, and gives them treatment. In this way, this organization supports the government which does not have enough resources to do all this work alone. In Kabul, the NGO, Global Rights, trains women judges and lawyers about international laws and standards. The judges and lawyers also meet and discuss different aspects of the law in Afghanistan. They then make suggestions to the government about ways to make the laws better to help women. All these organizations are part of civil society. Newspapers and radio of all kinds are very important to civil society. They publish information and opinion which educates and informs the readers and citizens. Although governments can provide information, they can only give one opinion or view. Newspapers and radio can also help governments by educating and informing them about events and views in the whole country. Why do we need more than one newspaper or magazine? Because any two people describing an event will have different memories of what happened. Each newspaper and radio station will have a different view on news stories and this variety provides balance. Of course, civil society can just be ordinary men and women working together to achieve something for the beneﬁt of everyone. Ordinary people in their own communities can make local changes. If you and your neighbors decide to clean the street in front of your houses, or build a safe play area for children, then you are part of civil society.
Did you know? In the early days of the United States, the government was not yet able to provide schooling for the children. Local communities provided a schoolhouse or a schoolroom at their own expense and then looked for someone who could teach their children. This person often did not receive money, but worked as a teacher in exchange for food and a place to live.
We can all be a part of civil society in a small or large way. If ﬁghting has destroyed your local school, you have several choices: 1. You can just wait until the government is ﬁnished with all of the other things it is doing, and sends someone to take care of your problem OR 2. You can send a message to the government that your problem is very important and they need to do something about it sooner, not later OR 3. You can do something about it yourself by ﬁnding another room for the children to be temporarily taught in. Any of these actions make you part of civil society. Which one is the best for you to choose? It depends on the size of the problem so you have to decide which action to take according to each situation.
OUR COUNTRY - MY ROLE For example, imagine that there is an earthquake in a country. This is a very big and serious problem. Machines are needed to move the destroyed buildings, airplanes or trucks are necessary to bring doctors and clean water and tents and food for the survivors, government money is necessary to rebuild the houses that were destroyed. In fact, the job is too big even for any government to do on its own. Always, other countries offer their help. They send in teams of rescue specialists to look for people who are still alive, but were buried under the wreckage. They send doctors and equipment, and donations of food and clothing. Should the people whose town was struck by an earthquake, therefore just wait until the foreign helpers arrive? Should they wait until their own government sends help? Obviously, that is not what they will do. They will immediately try to save themselves and their family, and to help their neighbors. They will expect help to come from their own capital city and from other countries, but while they are waiting they will work hard to help themselves and each other as well as they can. This is a good way to handle most of the problems a community faces. If the government cannot, or will not, help you – at least not yet – then you can help yourself and your community in the meantime. What is lobbying? Sometimes these ordinary individuals or civil society groups want to inﬂuence the work and decisions of government. This is called lobbying. The aim of all lobbying is to inﬂuence the people who actually have the authority to make decisions. Lobbying can be done on behalf of those who cannot speak up for themselves or those who have special needs – such as the homeless, children and the environment Lobbying can serve the interests of commercial associations and businesses too. For example foreign companies lobby governments to change laws that make trade across international borders difﬁcult or expensive. Those with specialist knowledge that is highly valued by decision makers can also do lobbying. For example, in Afghanistan the International Federation of Election Services (IFES) was invited to make suggestions to the government and the United Nations about how to organize the elections in Afghanistan. This is because the IFES has a lot of knowledge and experience in elections. Lobbying by the organizations that make up civil society plays a vital role in a democracy. Well-organized groups within society can continually test government policies, ensuring that the views of the people are taken into account when new laws are made. Democratic governments and their politicians have learned that they must listen to and learn from criticism and have their policies examined in detail by different groups. In some countries, governments routinely consult with charities before making new laws because they recognize that a charity group can know more than the government about the people affected by the law. This is not a weakness of democracy, it is a strength.
5 6 7 8 Working in a tree ‘nursery’, Nepal Youth club learning to use computers Literacy class in Peru Reading nutrition handbooks by the Food and Agricultural Organization, Senegal
1 Nutrition class, Madagascar 2 Generating income: collecting the harvest to sell, Bangkok 3 Community meeting 4 Researchers studying vegetables, China
OUR COUNTRY - MY ROLE Lobbying enables citizens to have a say in the decisions made by government. Such dialogue between citizens and government increases political stability by providing an outlet for individual and collective complaints and demands. Lobbying gives people hope that they can make a difference.
What you can do! You can get public attention for a problem or issue: • • • • You can organize an event and write to the newspapers, radio and internet Web sites so that they will publish a story or article about your problem. You can use any personal links to the government and establish contact with ministers and government employees. They can inform decision-makers of your opinions. You can work closely with candidates for government; i.e. the people who wish to be elected in the next election. You can promise support to candidates who want to help to solve your problem. You can get people to support you in large numbers. For example, one civil society group called Negar (Support for Women in Afghanistan) wrote a declaration to the Constitutional Loya Jirga asking for women to be equal to men in the new law. They gathered hundreds of signatures from people all around the world who agreed. This declaration was presented to President Karzai, who even signed it himself.
Doing your part – every man and every woman can help rebuild civil society During the last decades, Afghans have become experts at creating a secret, covert, civil society. They organized many, many activities to help themselves and others – running secret schools for girls in parts of the country controlled by the Taliban, organizing health clinics and literacy classes in the refugee camps in Pakistan, taking care of orphans and doing many of the other things that were needed. Now that millions of Afghan children including girls have enrolled in school, the education level is likely to change dramatically within a generation. Many Afghan parents today value the schooling of their girls, and in many places have gone to a lot of trouble and endured risks to make sure their daughters can be educated. There have been instances when extremists burned down girls’ schools. In every case, this only served to make the affected community even more determined to rebuild and move forward. It is often difﬁcult to take part in lobbying, especially for a person who has little time or energy after her work or duties, or for one who is afraid of the risks. Did you know? Some lobbyists are very extreme in their methods: their members chain themselves to fences or do illegal actions such as exploding bombs. They hope that such threatening or intimidating methods will force the government to agree to their demands. However such activities can work against the idea of a civil society and often this lobbying is less successful than the peaceful sort.
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There is no doubt that in many cases people prefer to have someone else make decisions for them. It might feel that participating in public life and helping to rebuild civil society is too risky, or requires too much hard work. In order to achieve a better society, one that is peaceful, stable and prosperous, everyone is needed. What you can do! Rebuilding civil society is a difﬁcult challenge, but we can all join the path to a better Afghanistan and every small effort counts. Here are some of the ways that you personally can make help rebuild civil society in your community. • Vote The most important civic duty in a democracy is political participation, which in its most minimal sense involves voting, in secret and independently. Be interested Citizens can keep themselves informed, know about the world around them and ask questions about the ever-changing political, economic, and social environment of their life. Asking questions is not always easy; but unless we are curious we cannot learn. Communal activity Often it is ordinary people who get a group together to discuss how to deal with a particular local problem such as the need for a new water pump. Some citizens may decide to write letters to a newspaper, or travel to the capital and discuss problems with their parliamentary representative. For example, in the small European country BosniaHerzegovina, local communities came together and made useful suggestions to the local government. Between the local government and this community group, they found a way to build a new road through the town, which improved their lives enormously. Such communal involvement is what political democracy is all about. Campaign activity This involves working with a political party, either as a member or a sympathizer. Organizing events Organizing events to learn about safety and ﬁrst aid, arranging help for a particular group of people and other such activities are enjoyable as well as educational. For example, it is not uncommon in Afghanistan that individuals who can teach organize classes in their own homes to help children who cannot go to school. Family nurture All over the world, women do the main work of caring for the family and raising the children. So in their everyday lives mothers, grandmothers and aunts can set a good example and so prepare the next generation for civil society.
The Doctors and Nurses of Rabia Balkhi Hospital Rabia Balkhi Hospital in Kabul – this used to be a room for garbage. There was no-one to clean it up, so the doctors and nurses brought cleaning supplies and paint and worked together to make this a clean, modern nursery where newborn babies can be taken care of.
OUR COUNTRY - MY ROLE
The newborn care unit at Rabia Balkhi Hospital in Kabul. (credit: Sally Crawford)
What do you think? Have you or anyone you know, been helped by a civil society organization? When and how? How did this make a difference to you? What kind of civil society organization would be useful in your neighborhood? What kinds of services could it organize or provide? What skills do you have? Probably more than you think. Decide to take part!
A helping hand “It is one of the most beautiful compensations of this life that no man can sincerely try to help another without helping himself.” (Ralph Waldo Emerson) What is a support network? Every time you tell someone about a problem or try to solve it by reaching out to others, you are connecting with the energies, skills and ideas of others. Every time you listen, you understand more. When you look, you ﬁnd out that there are other people like you, with the same frustrations. This is true for family relationships and friendships. It is also true for civil society. In civil society, reaching out to others is called a support network. There are different types of networks. They can be small between individuals in a small area, like a large family. They can be large and organized, like a national organization, for example RAWA, or a national teachers union. With telephones, television and computers, networks can even connect people across the world. Being part of a network of people with similar goals, ideas and problems can help an individual get practical information and personal support.
RAWA: Revolutionary Association of Women in Afghanistan
CHAPTER THREE : CIVIL SOCIETY
What do you think? Can you think of any examples of networking in your community? Is there a mothers group where young mothers can get support from each other? Is there an association of farmers who discuss the crops? Have you ever tried to introduce yourself to people who have inﬂuence in the community to solve a local problem? Have you ever been to a conference or a meeting where different organizations (civil society groups) have been invited to talk about the same theme? For example, a conference about health might invite a doctor from a clinic, a minister from the government, and a member of a lobby group to talk about, say, immunization. These organizations can network with each other at the conference and help each other to solve a health problem. For example, the Afghan Women’s Network is a network set up between nongovernmental organizations (civil society groups) for women in Afghanistan. It is a network of organizations. Representatives meet weekly to coordinate and exchange information about their activities. Why might they do this: because although each organization has a different way of doing things, they all have the same goal; namely to help woman in Afghanistan. They network because together they are stronger and more effective. Many voices in unison are loud and clear! Now, because of developments in technology, it is much easier for networks to stretch from country to country. These networks do not have meetings or an ofﬁce so it is called a virtual network, where you cannot see the other individuals. Instead, anyone can be a part of this network by reading a website on the internet, that is, on a computer with a link to other computers in the world. One example is the international non-governmental network called Women Living Under Muslim Laws which links muslim and non-muslim women from all over the world. What you can do! Anyone can reach out to others. Sometimes it is obvious where to go when you have a problem or an idea. Sometimes you have to look and ask around. • • • You may know of a club or council that already meets. You may have access to the magazines, newspapers or the radio, where people or groups are written about or advertised. Maybe you know how to use the internet or know someone who does. Sometimes you may need to ask a friend or trusted relative if they can help you. The internet is a good place to look for organisations and groups. It is possible to start your own own club or network. Just one ordinary person can decide to start a network. For example, one person can decide to start a discussion club, where friends meet regularly and discuss one problem or issue, like a health problem or a news story. Together you can exchange ideas and information, support and inspire each other.
OUR COUNTRY - MY ROLE
The Advocate story
Nasrine Gross ﬁghts for the rights of women in Afghanistan
hen Nasrine Abou Bake Gross arrived with a group of American women in August 2001 in the area of Afghanistan controlled by the anti-Taleban forces of the United Front, she must have raised quite a few eyebrows. She did not wear a head-scarf but wore trousers and make-up, smoked cigarettes and was not shy to speak her mind. If it seemed that she did not care for her homeland traditions – nothing could be further from the truth. Nasrine is a tireless campaigner for women’s rights in Afghanistan, a discerning Muslim, and deeply knowledgeable of Afghanistan’s history and culture. From delivering supplies of ﬂour and text books to challenging the highest authorities: no task is too small or too large for her. Life was quite straighforward for Nasrine during her childhood in Kabul. “I was growing up in the 1950s as a normal young girl,” she remembers. “I went to school, came home, I played with my girlfriends. We went out to restaurants, to the movies. We wore nail polish, we had short skirts. Women were represented in all spheres of work in the Afghani society.” In 1964, Nasrine left Afghanistan on a scholarship to study at Unversity in Beirut. There she met her husband Max Gross and after her graduation the couple moved to the United States. Nasrine gave birth to a son and then began a succomputers and managecesful career with ment. But she never forgot her home and never guessed that she would return over 37 years later. About ten years ago she decided to learn place. Soon, she realised about her birthdo something to help that she wanted to Afghan women. This led her to write a book entitled Qassarikh-e Malalay (Memories of the First Girls’ High School in Afghanistan), then another, Qadamha-ye Awshti (Steps of Peace and our Responsibility as Nasrine and President Karzai, when they Afghans). The more she learned the more met in New York in September 2003 she wanted to act. In June 2000, she attended a conference in Tajikistan’s capital, Dushanbe, which was organized by a group called NEGAR-Support of Women of Afghanistan. They had the idea to write a Declaration of the Essential Rights of Afghan Women. For Nasrine Gross, this declaration has changed her life. She and her colleagues took this declaration and asked people to support it with a signature. They met political leaders, governments and the United Nations. They went to Afghanistan and organized women and men to join them in their struggle. From clerics, chiefs, and commanders to peasants, farmers, Nasrine worked hard to tell the world about the declaration. Sometimes people were sceptical of her
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and not used to highly educated urban women. The fact that Nasrine lived outside Afghanistan for so long meant she had to earn their trust. “I don’t want to change their values. I want women to have choices,” she says. Nasrine kept on campaigning. She organized demonstrations, wrote to newspapers, gave speeches, attended conferences and developed internet networks. However, of all these eﬀorts, one single signature will always have a special place in her memory: the one given at the ceremony celebrating the transfer of power from the former Islamic State of Afghanistan to the interim authority on 22 December 2001. “We asked to see Mr. Karzai. His oﬃce gave us a ﬁfteen-minute meeting,” said Nasrine. “When we went there, Mr. Karzai kept us with him for three and a half hours.” Hamid Karzai invited ﬁve women, including Nasrine, into a private oﬃce and surprised them when he asked for a pen so he could sign the declaration. He told them that it was part of Afghanistan’s tradition to give equal rights to women and it was also in keeping with the laws and spirit of Islam. Nasrine said “This is a great moment for Afghan women. The Phoenix is rising out of the ashes and it’s a new day”. In January 2004 the work of Nasrine and other advocates was rewarded: the new constitution of Aghanistan gave women equal rights with men.
A F G H A N I S TA N
FOR PROTECTION FOR PEACE
CHAPTER FOUR : HUMAN RIGHTS
CHAPTER FOUR: HUMAN RIGHTS
Human rights are the rights people are entitled to simply because they are human beings, no matter their citizenship, nationality, race, ethnicity, language, sex, sexuality, or abilities. Human rights become enforceable when they are codiﬁed as conventions, covenants, or treaties, or as they become recognized as customary international law. Why is everybody talking about human rights? People who live with human rights laws protecting their society want everybody to know about them! Human rights are indeed exciting because if humans can learn to live by and respect human rights laws, then there is a good chance that the people of the world can live together with more peace, more security, and more prosperity. This would mean less war, less violence and less strife. These human rights laws are part of the new Afghanistan Constitution, so what are they? Where do they come from? How do they work? How can having human rights make a difference in daily life? What are human rights and where do they come from? Human rights draw from the most essential human values and instincts. The idea of human values is probably as old as mankind itself. These values exist at some level in all cultures and beliefs across the globe. The idea that one should treat other people as you would want them to treat you, for example, is common to many religions. African ‘ubuntu’ holds humans in high value. Islam gives many rights to its believers and provides protection to foreigners. Christians believe that Jesus said, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” The basic principle of human rights then, is that everyone is born with certain rights simply because they are human and that that no one – no person, no government, no army – can take them away. Some of these basic rights include the right to an adequate standard of living, the right to share in the life of the community, the right to say or think what you want, the right to practice the religion of your choice, and the right to associate with other human beings of your choosing. So, human values and instincts are not new, but the idea of collecting all the values and writing them down is a modern idea. Some were written down during the American and French revolutions of the 18th century, over 200 years ago. Then, two generations ago, the Second World War ended in 1945. This had been a war with so much suffering and horror that many states wanted to do something to help prevent anything like this ever happening again. The countries of the world came together at a meeting of the United Nations and produced a Universal Declaration of Human Rights, a list of values and principles of freedom and dignity that are common to all mankind. It is pleasing to note that one woman, Eleanor Roosevelt, was the Chairperson of the Human Rights Commission (team or group) that wrote this declaration. This Universal Declaration of Human Rights was the ﬁrst of its kind to be adopted (accepted by vote) by the United Nations General Assembly. Since then, the countries of the world have continued to work on this subject, and additional
OUR COUNTRY - MY ROLE conventions have been agreed upon to deﬁne more exactly what they mean. Work has also been done to develop ways to make sure that countries truly obey and respect these rights in their national laws and in their daily practice. For example there is the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (1966) and the Convention of the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (1979). These conventions and these legal documents are held in great respect by many governments, organizations and individuals. Those individuals and communities respecting these human rights are on the path to good human development and human security. UNIVERSAL DECLARATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS
Eleanor Roosevelt was the American President’s wife and when her husband died she decided to continue her husband’s work and became a one of the ﬁrst ever advocates for human rights.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) contains 30 articles. The complete text can be found at the end of this chapter. It is also available on the internet and through organizations such as Amnesty International and the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCHR). The Universal Declaration of Human Rights provides for an enormous range of rights for every man, woman and child within a country. These are so wideranging that they affect every aspect of the life of an ordinary person, without them even realizing it. Under this Declaration, these are some of the rights people in Afghanistan now have: • • • • • • • • • • • The right to life, liberty and security; The right to be treated equally before the law, even if you are poor or have low status; The right to a full and fair public hearing to determine your guilt or innocence if you are accused of a crime; The right to be presumed innocent until found guilty by a fair and legal court (if you are accused of a crime); The right to move and live freely within your country, and to use a passport to travel to other countries; The right to seek asylum in other countries if you are persecuted; The right to have a nationality; The right to marry and to start a family, no matter what religion or ethnicity you are; The right to own property and not to have your property taken away arbitrarily; The right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. This includes the freedom to change religion as well as the right to worship; The right to freedom of opinion and expression;
CHAPTER FOUR : HUMAN RIGHTS
• • • •
The right to take part in the government of your country, directly or through freely chosen representatives; The right to work and to have equal pay for that work whether you are a man or a woman; The right to rest and leisure, including periodic paid holidays and not excessive working hours; The right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of you and your family, including food, housing, clothing and medical care; The right to special care and assistance to protect motherhood and childhood. All children shall enjoy the same social protection. The right to education, which should be free and compulsory at the elementary stage; The right to take part in the cultural life of your community.
• • •
The Declaration also gives you the right to: • • • • • What do you think? Go through the points above one by one – do you understand them? Here are some of the practices that cause women to suffer in Afghanistan. Can you ﬁnd which parts of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that forbid these practices? • • • • • • • Girls in Afghanistan are often forced to marry before the legal age. Girls are obliged to marry someone they do not know, or someone they explicitly do not want to marry. Young women (and men) are prevented from marrying the person they wish to marry. Wives are beaten by their husband or other members of his family. Wives are not allowed to leave the house without permission. Wives are forced to work in the family household from early in the morning until late at night. One person telling lies about her can destroy a woman’s reputation. Not be held in slavery or servitude; Not be tortured; Not be arbitrarily arrested or imprisoned; Not have your privacy interfered with or your honor and reputation attacked; Not be forced into marriage against your will.
OUR COUNTRY - MY ROLE Why are human rights laws different to religions and cultures? Let us remember the Second World War, which we mentioned just before. It took place 60 years ago and affected most of the countries on earth, ﬁfty million people (50,000,000) were killed. This is such an enormous number of people that it is difﬁcult to imagine. This is two people dead for every one person living in Afghanistan today. All these deaths took place in only six years of ﬁghting, and more than half those killed were civilians and not soldiers at all. The people killed were from many different countries and were followers of all the different religions. When the war had ﬁnished, governments all over the world wanted to ﬁnd a way to make sure that such a war could never happen again. This is why the Human Rights Declaration and other similar laws were created. The Human rights laws were designed especially to include people of all religions and nationalities. They were not created in any one part of the world, or by members of any one religion or way of life. Human rights laws were created in a very special way to ensure that they could beneﬁt all of mankind and not alienate any particular religious or ethnic group. Different religions were referred to and many of the rights are in fact ﬁrst mentioned in religious material. For example the Prophet Mohammed refers to the right to seek asylum from persecution and the right to worship. In this world we are often divided by what makes us different; different clothes, different faiths, different languages, different colour of skin and different ways of living. However human rights actually unite us because they are about what we have in common, whichever country or culture we are from. Human rights laws are made by people, for people, and only people can make them work. They did not evolve from one particular leader, or miracle, or book. No land or people can claim supremacy over them. Perhaps this is why there is no rivalry between people over human rights, they speak through all languages and can travel to all lands in a way that no one religion or one culture in history ever has. As you can see, human rights laws are fairly new. Some people believe that they are a Western idea that is not appropriate outside the West. In fact, many of these rights were included in the Qur’an hundreds of years before they were introduced to the West. Though Islamic societies and governments have not always implemented them, these include the right to life, respect, justice, freedom, education, sustenance, work, privacy, protection from slander, to leave one’s homeland from oppressive conditions and the right to worship. How do human rights work? Human rights work in two ways: through people and through governments. Men, women and children can decide to live by and respect human rights, but responsibility for the protection of human rights lies with each country and its government. Human rights are written down in promises or laws called declarations or conventions, covenants, or treaties. The United Nations organization is best known
Adapted from the holy Qur’an by Riffat Hassan, PhD in her essay ‘Are Human Rights Compatible with Islam? The Issue of the Rights of Women in Muslim Communities’.
CHAPTER FOUR : HUMAN RIGHTS
for making these conventions but there are also regional organizations writing them too, such as the Council of Europe or the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights. Each country can decide which laws it will respect and bring into their own legal system. The governments, judicial system and police then have the job of upholding these human rights laws. When somebody violates a human rights law (or any law) then the police and the courts system of that country should deal with that person. When a government (or individual from a government) violates human rights laws then the case can be sent to an international court to deal with. The United Nations International Criminal Court is based in Holland, a small north-west European country. Don’t forget that civil society also has a part to play in safeguarding human rights. Human rights organizations, journalists, workers unions, and of course ordinary people can all watch to ensure that human rights are being respected in the laws and decisions of the government. They can also watch over businesses, employers and educational institutions. If they are not satisﬁed that human rights laws are being properly respected they can tell the government through the media; in consultations; through networks; campaigning; and ultimately through elections. (See chapter three for more information on lobbying.) What you can do! Try to learn about your basic human rights: • • Attend a local training course if there is one or try to organize one yourself by approaching an organization that promotes human rights and asking for more information. If you have access to the internet, there are many websites about human rights. There is a good home training book called ‘Claiming our Rights’ by Mahnaz Afkhami President and CEO, Women’s Learning Partnership for Rights, Development and Peace at www.learningpartnership.org You could contact a local newspaper or women’s magazine or radio station if you know one and ask them to report about human rights in Afghanistan.
How do we get these rights? Will we always have them? We saw in Chapter Two that many human rights, including the right to vote, were not granted to all human beings in all countries at the same time. This is due to wealth, race, gender and other factors and today people continue to struggle for their basic freedoms in many countries. Fortunately Afghanistan now has an up-to-date constitution. Afghanistan has ofﬁcially committed itself to human rights: girls are entitled to go to school, women have the right to work and move freely and vote and participate in every part of social and political life. However, it is one thing to have certain rights on paper, and quite another to actually ﬁnd them respected in real life. You may ﬁnd that others in your surroundings – your neighbors, your local leaders, and even some members of
OUR COUNTRY - MY ROLE Did you know? With the help of the United Nations, on the 6th of June, 2002, President Hamid Karzai announced the establishment of Afghanistan’s Independent Human Rights Commission. There are several groups and commissions in Afghanistan which have been working towards the promotion and awareness of human rights including; The Afghan Human Right’s Commission, an NGO, was ﬁrst established in Peshawar in 1998. The Afghan Organization of Human Rights & Environmental Protection was established in Peshawar, in 2000. The human rights law group, established in Kabul, is involved in training on human rights and is now called Global Rights: Partners for Justice.
your family – still think differently. Or, they may not have thought about these matters at all. Once a country is normalized and functioning properly, your rights are protected by the law, which in turn is protected by the police and the courts. If people try to take away your rights, you can then go to the police for help, or take the person to a court of law, or take other such measures depending on the particular case. However, Afghanistan is still in the process of building its police and its court system, and things are not yet working as they should and as they one day will. By discussing these issues with people around you, you can make this good day arrive more quickly. In a family or with people you know, talking things through is often the best approach. People do things in a certain way because they think it is good, and right. If you can explain that another way is better and will make everyone happier and more successful in their lives, you might get them to agree with you.
CHAPTER FOUR : HUMAN RIGHTS
THE UNIVERSAL DECLARATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS 1948
On December 10, 1948 the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted and proclaimed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights the full text of which appears in the following pages. Following this historic act the Assembly called upon all Member countries to publicize the text of the Declaration and “to cause it to be disseminated, displayed, read and expounded principally in schools and other educational institutions, without distinction based on the political status of countries or territories.” PREAMBLE Whereas recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world, Whereas disregard and contempt for human rights have resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind, and the advent of a world in which human beings shall enjoy freedom of speech and belief and freedom from fear and want has been proclaimed as the highest aspiration of the commonpeople, Whereas it is essential, if man is not to be compelled to have recourse, as a last resort, to rebellion against tyranny and oppression, that human rights should be protected by the rule of law, Whereas it is essential to promote the development of friendly relations between nations, Whereas the peoples of the United Nations have in the Charter reaﬃrmed their faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person and in the equal rights of men and women and have determined to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom, Whereas Member States have pledged themselves to achieve, in co-operation with the United Nations, the promotion of universal respect for and observance of human rights and fundamental freedoms, Whereas a common understanding of these rights and freedoms is of the greatest importance for the full realization of this pledge, Now, Therefore, THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY proclaims THIS UNIVERSAL DECLARATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS as a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations, to the end that every individual and every organ of society, keeping this Declaration constantly in mind, shall strive by teaching and education to promote respect for these rights and freedoms and by progressive measures, national and international, to secure their universal and eﬀective recognition and observance, both among the peoples of Member States themselves and among the peoples of territories under their jurisdiction.
OUR COUNTRY - MY ROLE Article 1. All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood. Article 2. Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. Furthermore, no distinction shall be made on the basis of the political, jurisdictional or international status of the country or territory to which a person belongs, whether it be independent, trust, non-self-governing or under any other limitation of sovereignty. Article 3. Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person. Article 4. No one shall be held in slavery or servitude; slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms. Article 5. No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. Article 6. Everyone has the right to recognition everywhere as a person before the law. Article 7. All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law. All are entitled to equal protection against any discrimination in violation of this Declaration and against any incitement to such discrimination. Article 8. Everyone has the right to an eﬀective remedy by the competent national tribunals for acts violating the fundamental rights granted him by the constitution or by law. Article 9. No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile. Article 10. Everyone is entitled in full equality to a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal, in the determination of his rights and obligations and of any criminal charge against him. Article 11. (1) Everyone charged with a penal oﬀence has the right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law in a public trial at which he has had all the guarantees necessary for his defence. (2) No one shall be held guilty of any penal oﬀence on account of any act or omission which did not constitute a penal oﬀence, under national or international law, at the time when it was committed Nor shall a heavier penalty be imposed than the one that was applicable at the time the penal oﬀence was committed. Article 12. No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks. Article 13. (1) Everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each state. (2) Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country. Article 14. (1) Everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution.
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(2) This right may not be invoked in the case of prosecutions genuinely arising from nonpolitical crimes or from acts contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations. Article 15. (1) Everyone has the right to a nationality. (2) No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his nationality nor denied the right to change his nationality. Article 16. (1) Men and women of full age, without any limitation due to race, nationality or religion, have the right to marry and to found a family. They are entitled to equal rights as to marriage, during marriage and at its dissolution. (2) Marriage shall be entered into only with the free and full consent of the intending spouses. (3) The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State. Article 17. (1) Everyone has the right to own property alone as well as in association with others. (2) No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his property. Article 18. Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance. Article 19. Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers. Article 20. (1) Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association. (2) No one may be compelled to belong to an association. Article 21. (1) Everyone has the right to take part in the government of his country, directly or through freely chosen representatives. (2) Everyone has the right to equal access to public service in his country. (3) The will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government; this shall be expressed in periodic and genuine elections which shall be by universal and equal suﬀrage and shall be held by secret vote or by equivalent free voting procedures. Article 22. Everyone, as a member of society, has the right to social security and is entitled to realization, through national eﬀort and international co-operation and in accordance with the organization and resources of each State, of the economic, social and cultural rights indispensable for his dignity and the free development of his personality. Article 23. (1) Everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favourable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment. (2) Everyone, without any discrimination, has the right to equal pay for equal work. (3) Everyone who works has the right to just and favourable remuneration ensuring for himself and his family an existence worthy of human dignity, and supplemented, if necessary, by other means of social protection. (4) Everyone has the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his interests.
OUR COUNTRY - MY ROLE Article 24. Everyone has the right to rest and leisure, including reasonable limitation of working hours and periodic holidays with pay. Article 25. (1) Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control. (2) Motherhood and childhood are entitled to special care and assistance. All children, whether born in or out of wedlock, shall enjoy the same social protection. Article 26. (1) Everyone has the right to education. Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages. Elementary education shall be compulsory. Technical and professional education shall be made generally available and higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit. (2) Education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. It shall promote understanding, tolerance and friendship among all nations, racial or religious groups, and shall further the activities of the United Nations for the maintenance of peace. (3) Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children. Article 27. (1) Everyone has the right freely to participate in the cultural life of the community, to enjoy the arts and to share in scientiﬁc advancement and its beneﬁts. (2) Everyone has the right to the protection of the moral and material interests resulting from any scientiﬁc, literary or artistic production of which he is the author. Article 28. Everyone is entitled to a social and international order in which the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration can be fully realized. Article 29. (1) Everyone has duties to the community in which alone the free and full development of his personality is possible. (2) In the exercise of his rights and freedoms, everyone shall be subject only to such limitations as are determined by law solely for the purpose of securing due recognition and respect for the rights and freedoms of others and of meeting the just requirements of morality, public order and the general welfare in a democratic society. (3) These rights and freedoms may in no case be exercised contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations. Article 30. Nothing in this Declaration may be interpreted as implying for any State, group or person any right to engage in any activity or to perform any act aimed at the destruction of any of the rights and freedoms set forth herein. Department of Public Information © United Nations 1998
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CHAPTER FIVE: TAKING PART IN POLITICS
What is politics? People think that politics is something that only politicians do but in fact whenever there is more than one point of view, there is always politics. Politics then, is simply the ways we use to gain or maintain support for a public or common action. One way to understand politics is to think of it as ‘persuading others to accept your point of view or idea’ Although the term is generally applied to governments, politics is part of all interactions in a nation, such as: administrative, legal, economic, business, academic, religious and civil society. Politics happens at all levels of decision-making in Afghanistan, from the head of state and the ministers in the government, to the governors of every province and wolusuals at local district level. Every day, government representatives, administrative staff and interested people discuss different ideas and ways to manage the problems in Afghanistan and rebuild infrastructure. In these discussions some groups, experts or government ofﬁcials have very strong opinions or signiﬁcant scientiﬁc information – they have a certain political will or leaning. They lead the discussion in a certain way and hope to persuade others to agree with them. These discussions can take place in a formal setting such as a jirga, or they can be through the media, in newspapers and radio, they can be at events such as conferences and they can even be in private. This is politics and the decisions that are made in these discussions can be thought of as policies. It is clear then, that if anyone has an opinion or an idea about the activities and decisions of the government, they must be part of the ‘discussion’ too. Did you know? You might have heard of different types of political leanings already. Political leaning to the right means having conservative opinions, political leaning to the left means having socialist ideals and centre politics usually means having liberal principles. Why do politics matter? Governments make decisions and policies, which affect our lives, whether we realise it or not. If they make policies, which suit us then the quality of our lives improves. If governments make policies, which are not good or unfair, or if they cannot govern well, then the social conditions can change for the worse. Human beings are amazing; we can survive very hard conditions. Still, when people live under these very difﬁcult conditions over a long period of time they begin to suffer from increased illness, they become more violent, and more crimes are committed. This results in a drop in productivity, lack of resources and even war. In many countries, some people have little respect for politics, they describe it like a ‘game’, or as ‘dirty’ and they commonly say ‘I have no time for politics!’
CHAPTER FIVE: TAKING PART IN POLITICS
This is partly because some politics involves an authority or power from which people feel excluded or offended. Another reason why politics is unpopular is that some people use very unfair methods to make others do what they want, such as bribery and force. Nevertheless politics do matter and in a democracy, every citizen has the right to be part of the politics that shape their country. People make politics: men and women. Did you know? Korea is a peninsula (part of country sticking out into the sea) in Asia about half the size of Afghanistan. Korea had a violent war about 50 years ago and the country divided into two, North Korea and South Korea. The politics of the South are mostly democratic, and the country is reasonably prosperous. Indeed Seoul, South Korea, hosted the International Olympic Games in 1998, when sports men and women came from all over the world to compete in athletic games. In North Korea, the politics are not as open, only a limited number of people can contribute their ideas to the decision-making. This part of the peninsula is not as prosperous and there are often widespread hunger crisis. In one peninsula the quality of life is very different for the people in the north and south.
Weavers and politics In Besud, in the Maidan/Wadak province of Afghanistan, there lives a family of weavers. The men work mostly on the land riding horses, and the women tend to the home and family, help with the crops and weave carpets that are sold in Pakistan. They live in the countryside and have no electricity, no plumbing, there is no tarmac road nearby. There is not a school, or shop or health clinic for kilometres. Only one girl has been to school. This family live and work off the land – why should politics in a far away city matter to them? In fact the policies of the government matter very much. Afghanistan allows international trade so this family can sell their carpets abroad. Good local governance could bring new roads, then the family could have better access to the towns for clinics and markets. In Australia, where transport is difﬁcult in areas, there are Weavers in Besud. (Credit: Mabi Angar) radio schools so their children can learn from home. There could be radio schools in Afghanistan too, if there was the political will for it. For all these reasons the adults in the family must vote wisely in elections for an honest candidate who will care for their needs and work very hard to solve their problems. If there is no such candidate,
OUR COUNTRY - MY ROLE perhaps they could consider standing as a candidate themselves. Politics has everything to do with the quality of life for these people, whether in the city or the countryside, now or in the future. Many Afghans have lived the whole of their adult lives during war or civil unrest or have suffered from careless governance and even natural disaster. One of the problems with politics of the past is that many people’s opinions and ideas were excluded, women were largely excluded, but also those who live deep in the countryside, and some religious and ethnic groups too. This was in the past and now Afghans are looking forward step by step to better times ahead. Afghanistan is taking measures to include all these groups, and the right to vote is one very important way. The constitution of Afghanistan makes the government more representative by reserving seats in the Wolesi Jirga only for women. Security and rule of law is a high priority and there will be a time when violence and corruption is reduced, so that men and women have more access to public life. The politics of the future can be better and fairer. Slowly, this will have a positive effect on all our daily lives. What can you do? In a democratic society, people elect representatives who take part in the discussions and decisions that affect their lives. However, every citizen has the right to get involved in politics, to make sure their representatives do a good job, and that their needs are not ignored. To do this responsibly, they need to keep informed. A good way is to listen to news programs on the radio, read a newspaper or magazine, or ask trusted friends or relatives to tell you about news and events that they know of. Why are women needed in politics? Mankind is a social creature. We live and work together for our survival. Each of us has different strengths and talents and we do not all do the same things in the same way. Imagine the parts of a car: wheels, axle, engine – all are different, but each part is needed to make the car drive. And so it is with society. Each and every one of us is a valid member of society, our needs matter, our opinions matter and our good ideas are needed. Just like all the parts of a car are needed to make it work well, so women are needed in politics to make politics work well. In 2003, the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to Shirin Ebadi, a woman from Iran, a Muslim country in the Middle East, for her efforts for democracy and human rights. She favours dialogue as the best path to changing attitudes and resolving Women reading the latest headlines in Kabul. (Credit: Alexander Nitzsche) conﬂict. In her acceptance speech she said:
CHAPTER FIVE: TAKING PART IN POLITICS
‘Undoubtedly, my selection will be an inspiration to the masses of women who are striving to realize their rights, not only in Iran but throughout the region - rights taken away from them through the passage of history. This selection will make women in Iran, and much further aﬁeld, believe in themselves. Women constitute half of the population of every country. To disregard women and bar them from active participation in political, social, economic and cultural life would in fact be tantamount to depriving the entire population of every society of half its capability. The patriarchal culture and the discrimination against women, particularly in the Islamic countries, cannot continue for ever.’ (© The Nobel Foundation 2003) Women are fortunate that the skills to be a good wife and good mother are also good skills for politics: enthusiasm, diligence, patience and above all determination. These are the skills, which are very much needed in politics. When individuals believe something to be right or see the need for change, often it takes a great deal of work to have others share your point of view. Even when everyone agrees, there may be many other hurdles, which need to be overcome before change can occur. What do you think? Are you inspired by the achievements of other women, like Shirin Ebadi? In what ways are women suited to dialogue and other non-violent ways of changing attitudes and resolving conﬂict? When was the last time you persuaded someone to accept your point of view? There is also one other reason why women are needed in politics – women tend to be less corrupt and less aggressive in politics than men. Corruption decreases the amount of money a government has to spend overall. Then there is less money to spend on health and social security which affect women disproportionately, such as maternal and child health services. A World Bank study on “Corruption and women in government” concludes that higher rates of female participation in government are associated with lower levels of corruption. Another study by the University of Maryland suggests that women may have higher standards of ethical behaviour and are more concerned with the common good. That is why it is essential to: • • Educate women about politics and give them the conﬁdence to take part in the political processes. Encourage women to stand for parliament and support women candidates.
How women in Afghanistan can take part in politics In the presidential elections in October 2004, 40% of all the people who voted were women. Some of those women got up early in the morning, prepared a meal that could be eaten later, did their basic house chores and then walked a long way to the polling station, where they had to wait in a line for some time before they could vote. It is not always easy taking part in politics! For many others though, it was a long awaited chance to have a have a ‘voice’ in the way their homeland is governed.
OUR COUNTRY - MY ROLE Indeed, voting in an election is one of the most direct ways of inﬂuencing the politics of a country. There is more information on how to vote and choose a candidate in the last chapter of this book but voting is not the only way to take part in politics. In every society there are ways and means of inﬂuencing the decisions made that affect your quality of life. It is worth noting from the stories in chapter 2 that trying to make a change is a long and often difﬁcult journey. Often a step forward is followed by a temporary setback. Working together with other people who share the same views is not only encouraging, but strengthening. If we women want to be taken seriously, we must remember that the best politics are respectful and well-reasoned. 1. Standing as a candidate There are some brave and talented women who have decided that they want to be more Voting during the 2004 presidential election in Kandahar. active in the political discussions of Afghanistan and decided to stand as candidates themselves in the 2005 election. Women like Jan Shira. She was a dentist in Kabul, with four children, even in wartime. She wants to help women who suffer from discrimination and speaks in many villages at the schools about gender problems. She has decided to stand as an independent candidate, and says that it comes ‘from her heart” to help other women. Shapira Sadat wants to be a candidate in Parwan and will work for peace and human rights in Afghanistan. She is very fortunate that her family support her and many people believe she could be a good representative. She was able to quickly get all the signatures she needed to register as a candidate. Some of the female candidates already have experience of working in the government like Nooria Haqnegar who worked in the Ministry of Women’s Affairs in Afghanistan as the Head of Advocacy and Training. However she has no ﬁnancial support at all. It will be difﬁcult for her to manage her ﬁve children and go out to campaign too but she is determined to do her best. We see here that different candidates have different advantages, but what these women have in common, is the belief that they can do a good job for the beneﬁt of Afghanistan. It might be a long time before we see women gain many ministerial or other senior positions in government or the business. However these ﬁrst women candidates are role models for the future generations. Just by being candidates they make it more normal for women to be seen in politics. Did you know? Of the 249 seats in the Wolesi Jirga, 25 percent, or one out of every four are reserved for women. Any Afghan male or female who is 18 and over and a citizen of Afghanistan can be a candidate in an election (there are some restrictions, such as being in prison).
CHAPTER FIVE: TAKING PART IN POLITICS
2. Support a candidate Not everyone can be a candidate, though they can choose to support a candidate in the run up to the elections. One of the tasks of a candidate is to make sure that as many people as possible know about them and what they will work for. It takes a lot of time and expense for one person to do this alone. The importance of the support of female candidates‘ husbands and families should not be underestimated. If you know a candidate personally or if you like a particular candidate that you have heard about, you can offer to support to them by: • • • Putting up posters or giving out leaﬂets about the candidate in your area Telling other people about the candidate, either casually at a family gathering or formally by holding a meeting. Helping the candidate hold meetings of their own, you could welcome guests at the door, make the tea and refreshments, take care of small children so they do not disturb the speakers or tidy up after the meeting is ﬁnished. Donating materials for the candidate such as paper for posters, biscuits and nuts for refreshments, a mobile phone to make phone calls for a few days, or even the use of your car. If you can write, perhaps you can write some letters or posters on behalf of the candidate. Helping people who want to vote for that candidate get to the polling station on election day.
Every small action helps the candidate to get their message across to the public and could help your preferred candidate win the election. 3. Use your expertise and social standing There is no doubt that men and women who have important positions are able to inﬂuence politics in certain ways. For example in Britain a charity called Oxfam helps people all over the world. The British government listens to Oxfam’s policy director, a woman called Becky Buell, when it makes decisions on overseas aid. Princess Diana was well known and loved throughout the world. She used this position to draw attention to the horrors of land mines. In Afghanistan it is the same. The head of the signiﬁcant organisations or companies are likely to be taken seriously by the government because they understand the needs of a large number of people. For example, the Head of the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC), who is a woman, Sima Samar or the Head of the Afghanistan Red Crescent Society, also a woman, Fatima Gailani. These women can set up their own committees, do research, and provide members of the government and the administration with information, ideas and opinions about issues of importance to men and women. Famous actors or musicians who speak up on issues are using their position to draw attention to their concerns. At a local level other jobs can still give women an advantage in politics. A schoolteacher can be a respected member of society for example. Nasia wanted to help her community. Luckily, a German doctor helped her to set up a school in her own garden. Nasia worked without salary teaching small children
OUR COUNTRY - MY ROLE how to read and write. Nasia became a respected and trusted member of Pule-Charkhi who could have a strong inﬂuence in the village in the future. 4. Use the media An extremely important way to make opinions known and understood locally and nationally is to use the media. Anyone can write a letter or article for a newspaper or magazine, though the editor of that paper decides which material it will publish. There are several ways you can use the media. You can: • • • • • • Write a personal letter about your views Write a news report about an event which is factual Write an article about an issue which is factual but includes some personal opinions Send some factual information to a journalist who can use it in a report Write a request to the editor to cover a certain theme that is important to you Write a complaint to the editor if they said something that is not true.
If you cannot write yourself very well, then ask a trusted friend or relative to help. Do not worry if your letter is not perfect. The address of the editor can usually be found somewhere on the back or front of a publication. A radio station will often say their address several times in the day. A website on the internet will usually have a button called ‘contact us’. Some women are concerned that being outspoken may give them a bad reputation. Journalists are sensitive to this and will not publish your name if you tell them not to. Of course, responsible freedom of speech is a human right in Afghanistan and women will become more conﬁdent over time. Here are some printed media for women: Education For All Women bi-monthly magazine Dari / Pashtu Pashtu / Dari all, students women student issues MOWA, ﬁrst newspaper for women, mother hood, women’s rights family, literacy, society
per season leaﬂet
Dari / Pashtu
newspaper Dari / Pashtu / English
CHAPTER FIVE: TAKING PART IN POLITICS
The New Way
The Peoples’ Will
newspaper Pashtu / English and Dari / English newspaper Dari / Pashtu
newspaper Pashtu / Dari English (selected) magazine Pashtu / English (selected)
Dari / Pashtu Dari / Pashtu
Independ- monthly ent woman
Dari / Pashtu
Health every Messenger season
Women and Law Magazine
Dari / Pashtu
women and legal assistants
women, politics, and business democratic and national intentions, opinions and desires of the people health, roles in society, employment independent, women, social, cultural, national for women in the provinces family, human rights, civil society issues women‘s interests, poetry, features special health feature and information simple legal information by Afghan Women’s Lawyers
OUR COUNTRY - MY ROLE What do you think? Have you ever read anything in a magazine that changed your point of view? Neda and her husband were considering a wedding match for their young daughter when by chance she read a report about the health and welfare dangers for young brides. It had a story in it from a father who had married his daughter in an unhappy union when she was young. The daughter ran away several times, complaining of ill treatment and feeling weak. Each time the father sent her back fearing dishonour. When he did visit his daughter, she was dying. In the report, the father says his daughter whispered into his ear, as she died, ‘Thank you father for choosing such a husband for me’. Neda showed the story to her husband who also read it. It helped them to decide that it was better to delay the marriage until their daughter was older. Have you had an experience that others could learn from too? 5. Join a union or association A group of people who work together to represent their common needs and interests is called a union or an association. A student’s union represents the needs and views of students. The representative pushes for better facilities for example. On the other side, the teachers’ association knows exactly what the situation is in schools and they can report back to the government if current education policies are working or not. These unions or associations are not confusing to a government; they are part of any healthy democratic society. They are an ongoing way that a government can listen and respond to the needs of the people. Free association is part of the human rights principles that are included in the Constitution of Afghanistan. This means that women are legally free to join one or more unions or associations of their choice. By being a member they can join a network of people who share similar views. They can receive and share new information and resources or even have access to facilities. Being a member of a union or association may offer you new opportunities such as attending an organised event. 6. Capacity Building We said earlier that politics and policies are only as good as the ideas people have and the skills people have to implement them. It is widely accepted that educating and training Afghans is a priority issue. Several schemes exist to develop the capacity of individuals in government, which will enable them to have better ideas and better skills. There is every reason why women should also beneﬁt from such training, try to ﬁnd out about such schemes are available in your area. Here a list of some of them: • • • • • • National Civil Service Management Training Institute Capacity Building Groups (CBG) Priority Reform and Restructuring Program (PRR) UNDP TOK 10 – ‘The transfer of knowledge though expatriate networks’ BRAC: NGO offering management training SWIM: Senior Women in Management training scheme
CHAPTER FIVE: TAKING PART IN POLITICS
7. Join in any organised events and meetings In November 2004, the Ministry of Women’s Affairs in Afghanistan organised a march through the streets of Kabul highlighting their campaign against domestic violence. Lots of women and men took part in the walk. It was peaceful and there were no problems. The march was reported on the news and that way the issue of domestic violence was brought across to everyone who was watching. Joining in such events is a good way to take part in the politics of a country and make your voice heard. Other ways are to attend conferences and meetings. This sends a strong message that the issues are important as well as being a good opportunity to learn and build networks. There may be smaller events in the community. The district Wolusual or village Shuras may let you attend their meetings. You do not have to say anything, you can just to listen – your presence is a way of showing that their decisions matter to you and you will not be ignored. What would the women have chosen? The NSP or National Solidarity Program is now running in many villages across Afghanistan. An amount of money is allocated to the village and they can decide how best to spend it according to their needs. In one place the village received 40,000 USD. New water channels were built for the ﬁelds and gardens, as well as improvements made to the Mosque. The men decided to allocate the women only 10% of the money and they set up a sewing centre with it. Although 56 women were interested to attend the classes offered, only 12 were taken in the morning and 11 in the afternoon. Quickly the materials ran out and there was no money to buy more. What would the women have chosen if they had been included in the decision making? For this book, more than 50 women were interviewed and not a single one of them mentioned the need for sewing courses. They did say that they wanted education, better health facilities and job creation. Perhaps the women would have chosen to pay for a teacher to teach literacy. One teacher can teach up to 30 people in one class, so in one day, all the women would have had a chance to attend a course. Perhaps they would have set up an SME or a Small and Medium-sized Enterprise, with a credit from a bank to start up a small business venture such as selling the products from bee keeping. 8. Small ways to take part in politics Here are some very small ways that women can have an impact on politics, do not forget that every little movement forward brings the goal closer. • • • If you cannot vote, you might be able to help someone else who can. You could take their children or cook for two families on election day. Just by saying ‘thank you’ or ‘keep going’ you can encourage other women who are trying to be active in politics Wear a badge or pin on your clothes. You can wear one with your preferred political party symbol on it or one symbolising your concerns. For example the badge of the pink ribbon is a sign for raising awareness about breast cancer and the red ribbon is for AIDS awareness.
Anti-AIDS badge worn by campaigners throughout the world
OUR COUNTRY - MY ROLE • • • • Add your name to a petition. This is a statement that hundreds of people sign which is given to a government or organisation. If you cannot act on your own ideas or concerns, at least talk about them to someone who can. Take part in surveys or questionnaires. Keep interested, try to follow what is happening in the news. Know your human rights and learn to live by them. Then others are less likely to take advantage of you.
Finally it is encouraging to remember something that Margaret Mead once said. She was a well-known American scientist with a great personality who died in 1978. “Never doubt that a group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world, indeed it’s the only thing that ever does!”
Women carpet weavers in Besud and their children. (Credit: Mabi Angar)
A F G H A N S C A N M O V E F O RWA R D
OUR COUNTRY - MY ROLE
CHAPTER SIX: AFGHANS CAN MOVE FORWARD: ISSUES IN PUBLIC LIFE
Where does public life begin and end? In this book we have been looking at different ways we can take part in public life: by developing civil society, by promoting human rights and by being active in politics. By taking part in public life, women in Afghanistan have made their voices heard and there have been some improvements since 2001. Schools and universities are open again for girls and women. Women can take up professional positions again and go back to paid jobs outside the home. The Constitution recognises women and men as equal and Afghanistan has ratiﬁed the main human rights declarations and covenants. In March 2005, at a seminar on women’s political and social participation, Dr. Sorayya Rahim Sobrang, the Deputy Minister and Person in Charge of the Ministry of Women’s Affairs said: “Recognition of women’s rights in the law is not enough and practical measures should be taken to implement them. Such measures are dependent on how the law is utilised”. She added that “prosperity, political development and democracy can not be translated into action without the active participation of women”. The task then for Afghan men and women is to bring the Constitution and human rights declarations to life: they need to live and breathe them in our homes and communities. The laws in any land are like the foundations of a new house – now we have to start building! Did you know? There were 35 representatives from different political parties at this seminar and almost all of them were men. Nevertheless, each and every one signed a document pledging to improve the political and social status of women. It is called the Resolution for the Seminar on Women’s Political and Social Participation March 2005. It means that at least 35 political parties have agreed to uphold the laws regarding women. Civil society should make sure that these political parties keep their promises. But what can be done? When it is difﬁcult or impossible to implement a law or change a practice in Afghanistan, people tend to say “it is our culture to behave this way, we will not change”. They blame a long history of male dominated traditions. They say that their religious beliefs do not permit them to change. However, every government has the responsibility to encourage good behaviour and practices by its citizens, for the good of all. Afghanistan is not the only country to be in transition. Other countries have gone through similar processes. It was the same in Bosnia and Herzegovina. From 1992 to 1995, there was a bloody civil war between the seven states of a republic called Yugoslavia in
Courtesy: UNDP Afghanistan
CHAPTER SIX: AFGHANS CAN MOVE FORWARD: ISSUES IN PUBLIC LIFE
south-western Europe. One of the these republics, Bosnia and Herzegovina, suffered greatly and international organisations such as the United Nations spent more than ten years helping to rebuild this nation. The governmental institutions were reorganised, new laws were implemented, and the education system was developed. Today Bosnia and Herzegovina has an improved infrastructure, better government and a better human rights record. It is now in a somewhat more advantageous position than the bordering states it fought with. How the implementation of laws help to change society
Courtesy: Isiah W. Taber, San Francisco
In China, there was a practice to bind ladies’ feet with bandages because small feet were considered ﬁne and a good way to attract a groom. The bandages were very tight and painful and spoiled the ladies’ feet so they could not walk properly for life. This was a damaging cultural practice and when the 1911 Revolution of Sun Yat-Sen took place, the practice was banned outright and quickly disappeared from fashion. Despite overwhelming scientiﬁc evidence that smoking can kill, many people choose to smoke. It costs the government a lot of money in medical treatment when they become sick. Smokers are a danger to others who breathe their smoke, especially children and small babies. Smoking is a damaging cultural practice and governments feel justiﬁed in setting tough restrictions against smokers. In Egypt for example, a tobacco-producing nation, smoking has been forbidden on public transportation. In many European countries, smoking is not permitted in public buildings at all. In a lot of other countries, people must be over the age of 16 before they can even buy cigarettes. These laws are really working and there are decreasing numbers of smokers overall. In a lot of cultures, it is customary to celebrate special events with an alcoholic drink such as wine or beer. Alcohol can have serious side-effects on the body if consumed in large quantities. If a person drives a car after drinking alcohol, he or she is more likely to have a serious accident. Twenty years ago, the number of such accidents in Britain was alarming. Men, in particular, would drink too much and then drive a car as an act of masculinity. Then the government made it illegal to drive after drinking more than one glass of alcohol. Policemen can stop drivers anytime and test them for alcohol consumption. Advertisements on television and radio made it unattractive to drink and drive. Now, attitudes have changed in Britain, it is socially impressive to decline alcohol at celebrations when driving. These examples show that traditions are not ﬁxed and societies are able to change. The people of Afghanistan can move forward, too. Women at the heart of every family can be powerful agents of this change. Women as the backbone of civil society can promote the rule of law. Women can uphold positive politics and peaceful dialogue. The role of Afghan women in public life is just beginning.
OUR COUNTRY - MY ROLE One clear and united voice in politics In interviews, women in Afghanistan say that health, education, human rights, and security are the main issues in their lives. Others add peace and environmental concerns, too, but the situation of women is the single greatest concern. That means that the majority of women in Afghanistan want improvements in the same things. These same issues are as well of concern to many millions of other women around the world. The United Nations brought these issues on to the global level when it published a list of eight Millennium Development Goals: Goal 1 Goal 2 Goal 3 Goal 4 Goal 5 Goal 6 Goal 7 Goal 8 Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger Achieve universal primary education Promote gender equality and empower women Reduce child mortality Improve maternal health Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases Ensure environmental sustainability Develop a global partnership for development
Do these goals seem familiar? These goals are very similar to the issues of concern for Afghan women. In 2004, Afghanistan became the 191st signatory to the Millennium Declaration. The women and men in Afghanistan can feel part of this united and global movement with many people sharing the same goals. They can unite and have one clear united voice. What do you think? In South Africa, 11 years ago, there was a very unfair system called apartheid. White people had rights and privileges and black or coloured people were discriminated against. Race-laws touched every aspect of social life, including “white-only” jobs. The black and coloured people were the majority population in South Africa, but only when they all united did they abolish the apartheid system. It is acknowledged that South African women working together with one clear and united voice were an effective force in the anti-apartheid movement. Why do you think is it important for women in Afghanistan to have “one clear and united voice”? Is it easier to complete a task in the home or garden when everyone is working together in an organised way? Do you think it is easy for society to ignore a united, reasoned call for change?
This photograph was taken at a demonstration against the White government in South Africa. (Courtesy: www.ic-creations.com)
CHAPTER SIX: AFGHANS CAN MOVE FORWARD: ISSUES IN PUBLIC LIFE
Civil society and issues The government of Afghanistan put a high priority on restoring the rights and freedoms of women but the government can not improve the situation of women alone. For example, there are estimates that 6 million adults need to be educated. This would cost about 2 billion dollars. This number is hard to imagine; it is probably as many dollars as there are grains of rice in two large sacks! The government just does not have this amount of money. So civil society has to develop and play a large role in the revival of Afghanistan. Civil society includes well-known non-governmental organisations such as the Red Crescent Society. It includes local groups of all sizes such as the Human Rights Research and Advocacy Consortium or Afghans for Civil Society. Civil society includes newspapers and magazines: like the Women’s Mirror or the New Way, or the Daily Outlook Afghanistan. Civil society also includes societies, associations and sports clubs. Civil societies have private businesses, shops and services. Civil society can be just ordinary men and women organising events, meetings or activities for a good cause. Grass roots civil society in action Kamila Faizyar was a student in chemistry and later worked as a technologist in a hospital. During the time of the Taliban, she moved to Pakistan where APA, the American Psychological she worked in a refugee camp for two years. It was Association, organised a camthen that she realised how bad the situation for Afghan women was. She became much more aware paign to raise awareness about incidents of violence against of herself and decided she wanted to do something children to help others. Kamila now heads a local non-governmental organisation (NGO) called Woman. For the summer months of 2004, she made a survey about domestic violence with women in Parwan. Kamila was shocked at the extent of domestic violence in the homes. “At ﬁrst it was hard to gain their trust, but we explained to women that it was important to have a voice in society. Out of 1,500 women who were interviewed, 650 were considered serious cases,” she said. Nearly half the women interviewed were seriously assaulted, but almost everyone had experienced insults, beatings, and hot ashes. Widows and orphans were often thrown out of homes and left to beg or work as prostitutes. The survey was conducted under the strictest professional standards so that no one could deny the information gathered. This is particularly important for men, who often only accept hard facts. The report from this survey was sent to the Ministry of Women’s Affairs and to the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC). The report will help persuade decision-makers, the police, and the courts that they will have to do more to stop violence in the homes and families. In 1997, Shala Maindhost started her organisation called Afghan Women Defending Women’s Rights in Pakistan. Now she has moved her centre to buildings near the airport in Kabul. She is able to offer courses in health, edu82
OUR COUNTRY - MY ROLE cation, ﬁnance, building, agriculture, human rights, computer courses and sports – more even than the government! Shala has a good co-operation with other organisations but she struggles to get salaries for her teachers. Still, she has helped women in Ghazni and Bamyan and continues to help people outside of Kabul. Her greatest concern is the problems in the provinces, with commanders who do not let women participate in public life. However, she is pleased that women took part in the presidential elections and looks forward to the next step. Nasrine Gross, who is featured in this book on pages 53 and 54, organised a literacy course for married couples. At the beginning, there was a sort of competition between them but as they learned more, they began to help each other and even meet each other’s friends. Then one man, at 50 years old, began to write love letters to his wife. This is a beautiful example of how civil society can help. What you can do! Nasrine, Kamila and Shala are clearly very capable and motivated women. Not every one can start an organisation but they can still help in small ways. • Participate in a survey. If there is a survey or questionnaire organised in your village, have the courage to speak up and take part. You don’t have to give your name and no one will know what you answered for the survey. The information you share will be used in reports that help to change attitudes. Share information. If you learn something new, tell at least four other people as well. That way the new message can spread. For example, a desperate woman brought her dying baby to a European doctor working on an army base and asked for a heart scan. The doctor knew that a heart scan would be of no use, but for the mother he began to check the child and cut through the cloths that were tightly bound around the baby’s body. At that moment, the baby seemed to take a huge gasp of air and was able to breathe properly. The doctor told the mother that the cloths were too tight. When the mother left, a friend advised her to tell everyone in the village what she had learned. The baby lived and the mother warned all her friends not to bind their babies. Start a club. If you can, start a women’s meeting for friends and neighbours. You could read a magazine or newspaper to others, talk about the news and discuss ways to solve problems. Weekly meetings like these could really help some women who feel isolated or who have family difﬁculties. Let the changes you want for Afghanistan begin in your homes. In fact, there are two proverbs that suggest this: “If you want to give something to your children, give them a good example.” “To make the world a better place, start with your own house.” Bring up your sons and daughters equally. Promote human rights in the family. Do not support honour killings or illegal activities.
Credit: Alexander Nitzsche
CHAPTER SIX: AFGHANS CAN MOVE FORWARD: ISSUES IN PUBLIC LIFE
Civil society is already working to raise awareness, to support and advise on government policy. Organisations are helping to educate and train or to offer medical treatment. Others are concerned with the infrastructure, building solar energy units for villages, or pumps for water. Newspapers and radio stations are making features to help and inform women. However, there is much more to be done and every woman counts. Spotlight on issues There are a few issues that deserve a special mention in this chapter. Child marriages Maternal care Family violence Many Afghans ﬁnd it difﬁcult to talk about these private issues. These are taboo subjects – difﬁcult to discuss socially. Every culture has such taboos. Nevertheless, it usually helps to bring these subjects out into the open if we are to deal with them. In public life, we bring issues ‘out into the open’ by: • • • • • writing about the issue in books or the media making television and radio programmes about the issue holding public or government meetings to discuss the issue such as at a conference making plays, writing songs, painting pictures about the issue organising a special event to highlight the issue
Here on the next pages you will ﬁnd a small amount of information about each of these issues and how they effect Afghanistan. Every woman can decide how to act on this information, using the suggestions in the book.
“Presently, parents marry their children at any age, even though such a thing is prohibited by law, by Islam and by standards of normal decency.” Dr. Sohaila Seddiki, former Minister of Health The legal age for marriage for females is 16, but a father can give his daughter in marriage at age 15, if he chooses. For boys the legal age is 18. This is set out in the civil law of Afghanistan. A marriage where one person or both are under this legal age is a child marriage. A child marriage is illegal and can be reversed in a court of law. There are speciﬁc human rights laws1 that regard child marriage an act of violence and discrimination. As such, those people who organise a child marriage can be brought into a court of law (to be prosecuted). More girls are married illegally than boys are. This is partly because girls can raise a bride-price for their parents. Girls are also used for domestic labour; they are given to other families as compensation for a crime or sold like goods. There are even cases where parents were forced to give up their daughters. Child marriage is a very serious issue. A child who is married is often prevented from continuing with education or employment or any personal interests. They have little chance to realise their potential. An adult with an incomplete childhood often has difﬁculty managing his or her own emotions. They commonly have inadequate social and communication skills. On the other hand, modern social science shows that mature, educated and fulﬁlled mothers usually have happier, healthier and more stable families. The children from these families are much more likely to be educated, productive and stable adults themselves. The physical dangers of an early marriage are very grave. Sexual intercourse and heavy household duties can cause damage to young bodies. Obstructed labour is especially common among young women giving birth for the ﬁrst time. Girls under age 15 are ﬁve times as likely to die as those in their twenties. For every woman who dies in childbirth, some 15 to 30 survive but suffer chronic disabilities; the most devastating of which can leave a woman leaking urine and/or faeces. Early marriage can cause serious physical trauma and psychological disturbance. No fair Afghan male or female could want this suffering for their relatives. This practice weakens the country overall. That is why the government has made laws to prevent this practice. Afghanistan is not alone; a few other countries have similar problems, in Asia and South America, for example. Still, the vast majority of cultures have moved forward and the practice of child marriages is no longer acceptable. Families of a child bride may be desperately poor and need the bride-price. Communities may not really understand the physical, mental or social consequences of a child marriage. Parents may feel unable to oppose relatives or elders who exert pressure on them. Whatever the reason or cause, a child marriage is against the law. The rights of the child must come ﬁrst and no child marriage is acceptable. Parents, families and communities who tolerate child marriages or exchange their daughters will need understanding and support in the future – but Afghans can move forward.
The Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) The Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW)
“For a woman to die from pregnancy and childbirth is a social injustice. Such deaths are rooted in women’s powerlessness.” The Safe Motherhood Initiative Many people think that pregnancy and childbirth is a natural biological process. They are not fully aware that every woman can experience sudden complications during pregnancy and childbirth. Even if women are experiencing pain and suffering, they may have been taught that these conditions are inevitable and do not recognise danger signs. Be aware of this information from two studies: • • • • • • Pregnancy is a leading cause of death for young women aged 15 to 19 world-wide. The highest maternal mortality rate ever recorded in human history is in Badahshan. In Afghanistan, every 27 minutes a woman dies in childbirth. When mothers die in childbirth, 75% of their babies die, too. The most common causes of maternal death are severe loss of blood, obstructed labour, infection, unsafe abortion and seizures. The main cause of this obstructed birth is child marriage.
Women’s poor health during pregnancy and inadequate medical attention frequently lead to miscarriage, chronic pain, organ damage and infertility. In the worst cases, women are divorced or abandoned and become social outcasts. Women risk death, disability and divorce each time they become pregnant. In a lot of families, men make the decisions about whether their wives will have sexual relations, use contraception or bear children. Yet no woman can truly call herself free unless she has control over her own body. Speciﬁc human rights laws and the Constitution give rights to women for health care and other services women need to enjoy family life. Certain harmful cultural practices prevent women from enjoying these rights. For example, tradition permits men to eat ﬁrst before women, and mothers may not eat sour food like yoghurts. So women do not eat the food they need to grow a baby. The restrictions on women’s sports and exercises mean that they are not physically strong to bear children. Tradition favours male babies. Doctors do not like to announce the sex of a baby after an ultra-sound scan because female babies are often then aborted. A woman may not visit a male doctor without a male relative. This makes women reluctant to use health services because they feel humiliated. Women can be threatened or pressured to accept treatments they do not want. Women have no means to make their own health choices. So families may delay or decide against bringing a pregnant woman to a doctor at all. The single most important way to reduce maternal deaths is to ensure that a skilled health professional is present at every birth. The majority of women in Afghanistan give birth without skilled help, are cared for only by family members, or no one at all. The best person to provide assistance is a community health worker with traditional birth assistant skills (TBA). He or she should live near to the community they serve. It takes 3 to 4 months of training to become a birth assistant. A community health worker can give young parents information on all aspects of motherhood and fatherhood. He or she may even show them how to care for their young baby, such as proper feeding and bathing. Men will need information and support to understand their new family roles, to ensure a responsible sexual, reproductive and family life.
“Violence against women and girls is a global epidemic that affects the health and economic stability of women, their families, and their communities.” Family Violence Prevention Fund Family violence in Afghanistan is a colossal problem. Research indicates that there is violence in nearly every home. Family violence does have something to do with poverty and too few resources. Yet there are poor communities in the world where there is little violence and still it occurs in societies which are well educated, religious, law abiding, and wealthy as well. This is because, in fact, family violence has everything to do with control. Violence is the force used to gain control of someone or a situation. Violence is not discipline. Discipline is the control we have over ourselves and is taught by example. Family violence is a very broad term. It is said to take place when one member of the family uses emotional, psychological, physical, sexual, or economic abuse to control another member of the family or extended family. Around the world, 1 in 3 women have been beaten, coerced into sex, or otherwise abused in their lifetime. Most often, the abuser is a member of her own family. Indeed violence against women, is the most widespread form of family violence, and was recognised by the United Nations as a fundamental abuse of human rights (UN Resolution 48/104). It is signiﬁcant that Islam and other major world religions reject this form of violence. That is because the effects of family violence are so damaging: • Children who experience even mild violence suffer from stress and are more likely to have allergies, asthma, stomach problems, headaches and ﬂu. They grow up to be adults with learning difﬁculties, increased aggression, eating and sleeping problems and show a general failure to thrive (develop well). Research consistently shows that violence against pregnant women has serious consequences for maternal mortality and child such as babies with low birth weight and early labour. Female victims of family violence are very likely to develop serious health problems including depression, panic attacks, stomach problems as well as migraines, chronic pain, arthritis, high blood pressure and addictions. In serious cases women seek drastic solutions; leaving home, self-immolation (setting ﬁre to oneself) and even suicide.
Family violence is considered a private matter in this country and therefore, not of concern for politics. Traditional thinking means that most members of the family accept physical and emotional violence as a normal part of life. The very act of complaining about family violence is considered to be humiliating for the victims themselves, for the honour of the family. So let’s be very clear about family violence. The harm caused to the victim and also the perpetrator can be severe, chronic and expensive and has an impact far outside the four walls of a home. Family violence is everybody’s business. Family violence must stop. The institutions must develop of course; a better specialist medical care, a better legal system that is less corrupt and with greater professional capacity. In order to stop family violence, it is necessary to change the social setting that allows it to exist. Civil society and religious leaders can help increase public awareness and support victims and perpetrators. Women can help by building a family culture of rights and responsibilities, not shame and honour. Many countries have successfully taken the very same measures. Afghanistan can move forward too.
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CHAPTER SEVEN: OUR COUNTRY – MY ROLE
What can I do? Afghanistan is not the only country with a troubled past. Sixty years ago, there was a long war in which Germany and Japan were both very badly damaged by bombing campaigns. These two countries have both rebuilt themselves as thriving democracies. The people living in Germany and Japan have a high standard of living, good free education and good health care. They are both strong countries with an important voice in the world. South Africa spent many decades with the majority ethnic group being oppressed by a powerful minority. This created hatred and fear between the two groups. Many people on both sides were killed in civil unrest. Fifteen years ago, South Africa became a democracy with every person having equal political rights. South Africa is now one of the most politically stable countries in the region of Southern Africa, a complete change from the previous civil strife. These examples show that with some dedication and determination, Afghanistan could also become a politically stable country in which all the people enjoy a good standard of living. Afghanistan is a magniﬁcent country and has much to offer the world. The people of all ethnic groups living in Afghanistan know of Afghanistan’s heritage and traditions. Afghanistan belongs to the people living now and their children to come. There are no quick solutions to the problems of Afghanistan. People in Afghanistan have to ask themselves: what is my role in our country? Every woman must ask herself: what can I do? One simple way for women to take part Instructions given to Muslims in the Qur’an refers to both male and female believers alike (Qur’an 33:35). Men and women have been given the same religious duties and will be judged according to the same criteria. Muslim doctrine holds that women are not in any way inferior beings to men, but were created originally from the same single soul (see Sura 4:1). So the role of women is as important as the role of men. Women all around the world, as mothers, daughters, sisters and wives, are the main care-givers in society. They raise the children, cook and clean, they are Did you know? In the days of the Prophet Muhammad, women were active and equal members of the new community of Muslims he had assembled around him. His wife Khadija was a successful businesswoman, and he met her because, initially, she was his employer. When he received his ﬁrst revelation, she encouraged him and became the ﬁrst convert to Islam. The Prophet Muhammad had appointed a woman to be the overseer of the local market. A woman was the caretaker of his mosque. Later, some women even fought in his military. Women prayed in his mosque, next to the men.
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healers in the families and pass the knowledge of the home from one generation to another. Some women are even very powerful within the community. That is exactly why it is important that our voices are heard when decisions are made about the future of our country. And now that Afghanistan is a democracy, women have the opportunity - along with the women of forty-four other Islamic states in the world - to bring their voices into the political process. Indeed, it is good that women do participate, for women have different ideas than men do about society and politics and can therefore bring new ideas to a political process. Women’s participation in politics can also raise the level of trust in the government. Women have different priorities, and are more likely than men to put issues on the agenda, such as ﬁghting hunger and poverty, protecting the environment, promoting family health, providing for quality education and ensuring human rights. Without women’s participation, some of these issues might not get the attention they deserve! Women also have a vital role to play in solving problems that mostly women experience as well as issues that both women and men face in our societies. Of course, not every woman can work in politics or for the government. However, there is one simple way for women to take part in public life and bring their voices into the political process – and that is by voting in an election. Did you know? Many scholars believe that Islam is inherently a democratic religion. For example, consider the important saying of the Prophet: “my community will never agree on an error.” This means that the best way to make a good decision is for all of the members of the community to make the decision together.
Don’t forget that women all over the world had to campaign for many years before being given the same right to vote as men. In England, many women went on a hunger strike and one died because she believed strongly that women should have this right. There are many other examples of women who made great personal sacriﬁces to ensure that women who came after them would be able to enjoy the rights and privileges that were denied to them in their lifetime. This handbook only mentions a few of the many women from around the world who spent their lives struggling for the right to vote. If these women considered this right something worth dying for, shouldn’t you consider it to be a valuable gift worth preserving? Democracy only works when citizens believe their participation is necessary and valued. Sometimes women feel that their participation in an election does not really matter, or would not make a difference, especially when millions of other people are eligible to vote. It’s easy to think this, but it’s not true. Sometimes the difference between a candidate who wins and a candidate who loses is only a handful of votes, one of which might be yours. Every single vote counts and makes a difference.
OUR COUNTRY - MY ROLE
The Dedicated Doctor
Dr. Sima Samar works to strengthen the human rights of men, women and children in Afghanistan
n Afghanistan’s Hazarjat province, the name Sima is becoming popular for little girls. They are being named in honour of Dr. Sima Samar. Dr. Samar was renowned for challenging the Taliban. “Go ahead and kill me,” she would say, “but be sure you publish my crimes!” What were those crimes? Running schools to educate Afghan girls and women, and building hospitals and clinics. Through the years of Soviet and then Taliban rule, Sima has worked to defend the rights of women, often in the face of insults, death threats and slander, but her courage never faltered. Sima studied medicine at Kabul University. When she was still a student, her husband was arrested by the Communists and never seen or heard from again. However, this was not Sima’s ﬁrst test in life. From the beginning, she noticed that life was diﬃcult for her because; “I’m a woman, I speak out for women and I’m a Hazara, one of the minority tribes.” Sima was determined and completed her studies, then moved to the rural areas of Afghanistan. She was appalled by the lack of health education among the people there and decided to help them. Her work became even harder when the Taliban took control of Afghanistan and passed the various Fatwas (religious rulings) denying women From left to right: United States Senator Chuck Hagel, and girls their basic rights to education, employ- Hamid Karzai, and Sima Samar. (Credit: USAID) ment, mobility and medical care. Sima challenged the Taliban dress-code for women and refused to wear a Burqa or a veil, while continuing to voice women’s rights. “Almost every woman I see has softening bones from lack of Vitamin D,” Sima said at the time. “They survive on a diet of tea and naan because they can’t aﬀord eggs and milk and their Burqas and veils deprive them of sunshine. On top of that, depression is endemic here because the future is so dark.” Later, Sima moved across the border to Quetta in Pakistan, where she started the Shuhada Organisation (SO), which established a school and a clinic for Afghan refugee women to heal their bodies and psyches. In Afghanistan itself, she supported several small secret schools for girls and ran another medical clinic in Kabul. Her work was recognized internationally and she joined a group called Women Living Under Muslim Laws, which has links with 40 countries and is a powerful voice at the United Nations. Her valuable contribution to the cause of human rights and peace in Afghanistan earned Sima a place as Minister of the Women’s Ministry in the interim government. She was the ﬁrst women to hold such a position in the history of Afghan Government.
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However, this was not the end of Sima’s struggle. During and after the Emergency Loya Jirga, she faced threats from men aligned with the Jamiat faction as well as from oﬃcials in Government. Many other women attending were threatened not to “make trouble.” A petition was circulated at the Loya Jirga denouncing the Women’s Aﬀairs Minister and accusing her of making statements against the Islamic country’s interests. The charges were later dropped, but Sima was barred from public oﬃce by Afghanistan’s Chief Justice, Mawlawi Fazel Hadi Shinwari. Dr. Samar is now the head of Afghanistan’s newly-formed independent Human Rights Commission. She and her staﬀ investigate cases of human rights violations in the country. Dr. Samar is clearly an example of those heroic and learned women who throughout history have deﬁed the status quo and helped to carve a future for women that convention and prejudice once denied them. As she once told the Taliban: “You know where I am. I won’t stop what I’m doing.”
OUR COUNTRY - MY ROLE What you can do! With the picture below you can easily remind yourself and others of ﬁve good reasons for women to participate in politics and civil society.
Middle ﬁnger The longest ﬁnger points the way to a brighter future in Afghanistan. Women’s talents are needed to help improve life for all! Qalam ﬁnger This ﬁnger reminds us that in Islamic religion, we have equal rights and responsibilities. An important responsibility is to decide on your government.
Wedding ﬁnger This ﬁnger signiﬁes the legal binding between man and woman and stands for the law. It reminds women to stand up for their human rights and to promote the rule of law in Afghanistan
Little ﬁnger This ﬁnger reminds us of our children.You have an interest in who is running your government and in the decisions that affect you and your family. Each woman must decide for herself how much she is able to join in the rebuilding of Afghanistan, but even the smallest effort will be a gift to the next generation.
Thumb Like thumbs and ﬁngers, women and men are different but worth the same. It’s best when all work together. The thumb reminds you to bring the voice of women into the political processes.
CHAPTER SEVEN: OUR COUNTRY – MY ROLE
How do I vote? In Afghanistan, the United Nations helped to organize and run the National Elections. International men and women as well as Afghan men and women were working in the main cities, towns and villages, explaining and publicizing the national elections. The United Nations were also informing Afghan citizens about the election and they produced different sorts of civic education materials such as posters and radio and television adverts, called ‘spots’. You may ﬁnd these posters, in the street, at a local shop, at a school or even in a clinic: anywhere where lots of people will pass by and see it. This information will tell you about the voting process. How do I choose who to vote for? In most elections, more than one candidate or group of candidates will stand for election. Often these candidates reﬂect different ways of thinking in the community or region. It is good to have different candidates because then voters have a choice. There is no wrong or right candidate but it is important to use your right to vote in a responsible way. Voters should choose a candidate who will best represent their interests. This is what different women said about choosing a candidate in the presidential elections: “I will vote for a candidate who will build roads in the village, solve the school problem and bring electricity” “I would never vote for a female candidate because 100 women are worth one man!” “I wish for improved rights for women, children, good environment, schools and health, and I already know which candidate I will vote for: my brother!” “I don’t like any of the female candidates, although, I don’t know any of them” “I would like to vote for a woman, if she is the better candidate” “My husband does not want me to vote, I trust my family and know they will chose the right candidate.”
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“We talked about the candidates before we all went together as a family to vote, it was a great feeling!” “I don’t know about the different candidates. I looked at the pictures on the ballot and looked for the most sympathetic face” “I want an honest, hard working candidate” “My husband told me how to vote, or I could not go!” “I will soon get the information about the candidates”
Posters from political parties and independent candidates on a wall in Kabul. (Credit: Alexander Nitzsche)
Usually, the various candidates provide information about themselves, their ideas, what they believe in, and what they plan to accomplish if they are elected. You can listen carefully to their promises. Is one candidate more interested in education? Has he or she promised to work especially hard on improving the schools? If this issue is important to you, you may decide to support this candidate with your vote. You could even decide to volunteer to help this candidate get their message out to other citizens like yourself. What you can do! In order to vote in a responsible way, you need to know the different candidates who are standing for election. Some candidates are representing a political party and they will have the same views as that party. Some candidates are independent, the ideas they have are their own. You can ﬁnd out about candidates and political parties by: • • • • • • Listening to news and local radio programmes Asking trusted friends and family what they think Reading campaign materials (information posters and leaﬂets etc.) Attending any public meetings the candidates or parties hold in your area Contacting the party ofﬁces and individual candidates personally If you have access to the internet you can look at the website of political parties or the government. Many have a website for all the candidates.
A responsible vote, is your own thoughtful vote, trust your own opinions and have the conﬁdence to act accordingly.
CHAPTER SEVEN: OUR COUNTRY – MY ROLE
What do you know about the person who is running? Their behavior in the past is a good guide to what you can expect from them in the future. Are they known for being honest and hard working and for keeping their promises? Do they associate with good people? When you look at the way they live their own life, what do they seem to care most about? Do they care mostly about getting rich, and having power, or do they seem to care about the problems of other people and about their country? If candidates come to your area, you can ask questions and demand clear answers. What are their plans? What do they intend to work hardest on?
At the women-only polling station in Jalabad. (Credit: Stephanie Bleeker)
The costs of bad governance and how they affect you! The party or individual running the government can make a big difference to the lives of the people living there. If a country is poorly run over several years, it can quickly fall behind its neighbors in terms of quality of life. Let’s take a look at some examples. • Tajikistan is right next door to Afghanistan, and has a similar economy. In Tajikistan, 40 babies die in every 2,000 born alive. In Afghanistan, almost 300 babies die for every 2,000 born alive. In another neighboring country, Turkmenistan, almost everybody can read. In Afghanistan, less than 4 people in every 10 can read. In Iran, there is one doctor for every 1,250 people. In Afghanistan, there is one doctor for every 7,000 people.
OUR COUNTRY - MY ROLE The everyday lives of the citizens are very different, depending on their recent governments. If you vote in an informed manner, you can expect to see things begin to slowly improve in your daily life. Our country – my role After reading this book you may be inspired to take an active role in helping to rebuild your society. By taking part in public life; by networking with others; by contributing to civil society; by promoting the rule of law and human rights; and by setting a good example to others. It is up to you how active you can become, and what form that activity may take. You can be highly active, or not participate at all. But it is important that you are aware that you have an impact no matter which way you choose – for good or bad. In a democratic society, the choice is yours to make.
What you can do! You can share your knowledge from this handbook with other women. • • • Think of six women who you can talk to about what you have learned. You can talk to these women individually, when sharing chores or meals. Or you can organize a meeting, in a house for example. The next section of this book contains sessions for a training workshop. You can use this section to help you share your knowledge with others by being a group leader. You can read this handbook to someone else who cannot read or let someone else use it.
By sharing your knowledge you will be empowering other women to join you in your journey to a new and better Afghanistan. The more women involved in this journey, the brighter the future for Afghanistan.
OUR COUNTRY - MY ROLE
DISCUSSIONS AND ACTIVITIES FOR SEVEN WORKSHOPS
How to use this section
This section contains training suggestions and material, enough for use in 7 short women’s workshops. These workshops are an introduction and awareness-raising tool to help Afghan women participate in their country’s political and social reconstruction. Each workshop needs a teacher or group leader who will lead group discussions and activities. The seven workshops refer to the seven chapters of the handbook and are only a suggestion. Of course, each group leader can add their own style and ideas according to the needs of the workshop participants. However the supplied material is designed for women from all walks of life and each workshop has a balance of oral, aural and kinetic exercises, with increasing complexity, that are good for adult learning. For best results: read the handbook a few times before attempting to be a group leader; have a minimum of 6 participants and; allow between one and four hours for each workshop. Very little else is required and workshops can easily be organized in a home, a garden or a community centre. The workshop instructions are in green writing like this: Show a picture: “Women hold up half the sky.” (Proverb) This is on page 98. It shows women reaching their hands up to the sky. The group leader can hold up the picture and start the women thinking about themselves positively, she can ask: What does this proverb mean? What are some of the things women contribute that a society could not exist without? What do you, personally, do that is helpful and important to your family, your friends and your neighborhood?
The instructions are written for the group leader. They can suggest an activity, raise a discussion question, or provide a training tip. They help the trainer identify her role, and to plan, prepare and organise a training workshop. There is also blue writing like this:
“It is one of the most beautiful compensations of this life that no man can sincerely try to help another without helping himself.” (Ralph Waldo Emerson)
The blue writing contains stories or interesting information that can be read aloud to participants. It can be read by the group leader or anyone else in the group who has a good voice.
DISCUSSIONS AND ACTIVITIES FOR SEVEN WORKSHOPS
The symbols, by the side of each instruction, mean the following:
Read a text: A story or interesting information to be read aloud to the group
Show a picture: A picture that can be shown to a group, or cut out and passed around, or can even be put on the wall as a poster
Discussion question: Suggested questions to motivate discussion on a theme
Action activity: Learning activity where participants will need to move around, or get into smaller groups
Think about: An exercise to signal the end of each workshop with a message or idea for participants to think about for themselves
Guide for the group leader
“Education is not the ﬁlling up of a hole, but the lighting of a ﬁre” (proverb) The job of the group leader in the workshops is to stimulate learning and motivate women to take part in public life and the reconstruction process – for the good of women and Afghanistan. The workshops should therefore also be participatory, interactive and encouraging and not like traditional school teaching. The essential messages that need to be conveyed are: • • • Afghan women are important and necessary. Women can help move Afghanistan from a state of war to a sense of order. Women can do this by: participating in the new democracy, working for a civil society and promoting human rights.
The group leader should match the level of curiousity and interest with the right level of information. The messages of the workshops are relevant to all women of different backgrounds and capacities, but the group leader can draw on material from the resource book and indeed other sources to adapt to the group’s needs.
OUR COUNTRY - MY ROLE Adults learn best when they feel valued as individuals and the message is relevant to their life. It helps that the workshop is well managed too, even in the highest level conferences, when a presentation goes on too long everyone looses interest! Group leaders can help adults to learn by: 1. leading a respectful, relaxed and well-prepared workshop 2. ensuring that all participants answer questions and add their comments to discussions 3. appreciating and managing the contributions from individuals (making sure that the more conﬁdent group members leave time for others to speak or ask questions) 4. speaking slowly, clearly and neutrally. Present new information in small amounts at a time and repeat key themes often. 5. remembering their needs: if possible provide breaks, refreshments, avoid distractions (perhaps child care facilities?) and keep to timings! “I cannot remember what you said to me, but I can remember what you showed me” Adults learn well when more than one of their senses is engaged. This means that adults prefer to see a picture or words relating to what the group leader is talking about. The worskshops need little equipment, but it will be better if a group leader can use other equipment such as paper and pens, or a blackboard and chalk for example. Then the group leader can write up key words she uses or draw picutures to explain an idea. Many adults learn best through action and practice, even by touching. When you can, let them touch the teaching materials. For some of the women, the sessions will provide a rare opportunity for them to consider larger questions, rather than focusing on their busy lives as usual. In any group session, it is very important to provide long enough breaks so that the women can talk to each other. If the women have several breaks during a day of sessions, they will discuss with each other what they have been learning. This is called networking and is a very important part of all training. There are many different ways to run the seven workshops. The group leader might want to have two workshops in one day, one before lunch and one after. Or she might want to run one workshop each day for seven days, for example every afternoon between Sunday and Saturday. If the group have difﬁculty getting together, the group leader could present all the material in a full day session.
DISCUSSIONS AND ACTIVITIES FOR SEVEN WORKSHOPS
Group leaders can identify potential participants from • • • • • local Ministry of Women’s Affairs women’s centres persons in their lives who would be interested: family, friends, neighbours local non–governmental organizations advertising in women’s media or at the schools and kindergartens Visiting nearby communitites personally (especially for marginalized groups).
Feedback A group leader will easily know if the participants are enjoying the workshops and ﬁnding them useful. When a group is interested, they are enthusiastic and constructive. When a group is disinterested, they will seem tired and restless. The mood of the group can depend on many factors that are out of the control of the group leader, such as the temperature or noise. Sometimes though, knowing what the group likes and doesn’t like can help the group leader to make the right changes. This is called feedback. The group leader can get feedback in several ways, she can ask directly or the participants can ﬁll out a form at the end of a training course. There can be a book and pen left out in a discreet place where participants can freely write down their comments and suggestions. Some questions to the participants might be: Did you ﬁnd the course relevant? Were the materials adequate? Was the group leader competent? Or simply like this: What did you like best about the course?................................(please write here) What could we improve in the course? ...................................(please write here) Yes / Quite / No (please select) Yes / Quite / No (please select) Yes / Quite / No (please select)
OUR COUNTRY - MY ROLE
SESSION ONE: GETTING STARTED
Thinking About Women in Public life
Activity: Discussions and exercises for a workshop Goal: To feel comfortable in the group and be ready to discuss and learn about women’s role in rebuilding Afghanistan. Time required: 1 hour minimum - 2 hours and thirty minutes maximum. Materials required: Comfortable and quiet sitting area for between 6 and 15 women. A fork and a spoon. A big bowl and a spoon for stirring. Small amount of food and drink for refreshments. Instructions: Participants enter and are seated in a circle. The group leader welcomes the group and gives the title and aim of the session. If the participants do not know each other, each person should give their name and then a little information about themselves. For example, if they are married, if they have children or how many brothers or sisters they have, where they live, if they have an occupation, or skill, even their favourite food or place. This should not take more than 1 or 2 minutes per person. Show a picture: “Women hold up half the sky.” (Proverb) This is on page 98. It shows women reaching their hands up to the sky. The group leader can hold up the picture and start the women thinking about themselves positively, she can ask: What does this proverb mean? What are some of the things women contribute that a society could not exist without? What do you, personally, do that is helpful and important to your family, your friends and your neighborhood? Read a text aloud: The wedding Day of Neema It is the wedding day of Neema. She is excited and has been looking forward to this day for a long time. After seeing her sisters married, it is ﬁnally her time to prepare for the wedding party and she is taken to a beauty parlor to dress and decorate herself for this special day. Neema has seen other women at marriages and has dreamed of how she wants to look. Later she complains to her sister Leyla about her disappointment. ‘Nobody asked me what I wanted, or saw that it did not suit me. I did not feel at my best and I was unhappy the whole day’. Leyla did not understand: ‘Why did you let it happen?’ she asked and Neema explained. ‘I did not know that I could tell them what I wanted, I did not understand what they were doing and I did not have the courage to ask them.’ Leyla comforted her sister: ‘Come now, do not be angry with yourself, for I can tell you that you do have courage. At home, you can certainly tell us when you do not like something!! In school, you could always ask when you did not understand something. And don’t forget that when we go to a salon, we pay the ladies to help us. We can tell them what we want and they will try their best to do it.’ Neema laughed and realised that she did indeed know what she wanted and how to express herself. She told her sister that in the future she would remember to ﬁnd her courage even in new situations.
SESSION ONE: GETTING STARTED
Group discussion questions: The wedding day of Neema What can this simple story teach us about women’s role in society? Why is it important that women get involved and take part in the decisions and management of their country even in a very small way? Fork and spoon – touch activity: The group leader passes around a fork and a spoon for each of the participants to handle. She can say, “The role of men and women is a bit like the role of a spoon and fork. They are different from each other but both have something different to offer, both are needed!!” The group leader can develop this idea further if the group responds positively. Break for refreshments Read a text aloud: Running a government is like managing a family Think about some of the things that need to be taken care of in a family: Prepare the meals to feed everyone Take care of the person who is sick Earn money Clean whatever is dirty, such as laundry and dishes Decorate the house so it will look nice Buy needed items from the market or shop If the family produces something, such as carpets, sell them Visit friends and relatives and have them visit you If you have a disagreement with a friend or neighbor, talk to them and try to ﬁx it Teach the young children how to eat, talk, walk and behave properly And have you noticed? All the jobs on this list are things which women can certainly do. In fact, most of them are things that are part of a housewife’s everyday, normal responsibility. Running a government is like running a family. The only difference is in the size. Let’s look at how the things that are done in a family are just like the things that are done by a government: Ministry of Health Takes care of those who are sick. Ministry of Trade Buys things the country needs, and sells things the country produces. Ministry of Foreign Affairs Keeps good relations with countries who are friends, and tries to resolve disputes with countries where there is a conﬂict. Ministry of Education Makes sure that children and young people can go to school and learn. Ministry of Agriculture Makes sure there is enough food.
OUR COUNTRY - MY ROLE Mayor Makes sure the city is clean, the garbage is collected, that the streets and parks look nice. Women then, can do all of these things. In fact, it is important that they do. It can be seen all around the world, that in every country where women participate in life outside of the house, the quality of life improves for everyone. Of course it is necessary to be educated in order to do this work well. But even more, it is necessary to have the same qualiﬁcations that make a good housewife: to be practical and not extravagant; to be honest and really care about the well being of the family/country; to get along well with others and create a peaceful atmosphere. Group discussion questions: Running a government is like managing a family What jobs can you do now outside the home and family? What personal qualities do women have that they can bring to public life? Women are often good managers, are more tolerant of others, and less open to corruption for example. Apart from work, what other ways can women contribute to a well running country? • By learning how to read and write, women can increase their chances of obtaining lots of information, ideas and experiences that they need to care for their families and themselves. By registering and voting in elections, women can choose good leaders who will see that the environment and resources for her community are provided and protected. By uniting and supporting each other, women can strenghthen their voice. Women can make demands, insist on change and encourage success. Women can help their country greatly right in their own homes. Since women are the main educators in the family, women can set a good example to the next generation.
(Optional) Group Activity: Words and Meanings The group leader divides the group into pairs or threes and gives each one a word or expression, which they have three minutes to discuss between them. After three minutes the group leader asks each group to explain out loud the meaning of the word they have. If there is any misunderstanding or disagreement in the group, the group leader can clarify the meaning Government Registration Democracy Voting Term Limit Human Rights Elections Rule of Law
Freedom of expression Media
Due Process (legal process, passage of law) Campaigning (Lobbying)
SESSION ONE: GETTING STARTED
Something to think about: ‘Cake for Afghanistan’ The group leader passes a mixing bowl and spoon around the room and asks everyone to put in an ‘ingredient’ and to stir it in. The ingredients can be anything that each person would like to see in the future of Afghanistan. For example: schooling for all children; or clean water in every village; or better health care; or even simply peace and happiness. It does not matter if the same ingredient is added twice. Each person is asked, in their own time at home, to reﬂect on this cake, to ask themselves what they each could do to help make this a reality. The group leader writes the list of ‘ingredients’ on paper and puts the paper where the women can see it and remember it for the rest of the session.
OUR COUNTRY - MY ROLE
SESSION TWO: WOMEN AND POLITICS IN THE MODERN WORLD
Thinking about how Women gained their Political Rights in History
Activity: Discussions and exercises for a workshop Goal: To identify with and feel part of the women’s movement internationally and nationally, to be inspired and motivated by others. Time required: 2 hours minimum - 3 hours maximum. Materials required: Comfortable and quiet sitting area for between 6 and 15 women. Small amount of food and drink for refreshments. Instructions: Participants enter and are seated in a circle. The group leader welcomes the group and gives the title and aim of the session. She reminds them that in the last session they learned that women are important in rebuilding Afghanistan, they have a valuable and important role in domestic life and in public life. Read a text aloud: The struggle for justice and equality Around the world in history, whenever people tried to get equality and justice there were some men – and also some women – who tried to stop and discourage them. Almost everywhere in the world, women had to overcome resistance and had to ﬁght for their right to vote, to get a good education, to work and to have equal legal rights. In Afghanistan, women are experiencing the same struggles for their rights as their sisters have in many countries before them. Now, though, they have one advantage: the new constitution of Afghanistan states clearly that women and men are equal before the law. This includes equal political rights such as the right to vote and the right to be elected. The constitution also says that out of every four representatives in the House of People, at least one must be a woman. It looks as if the women of Afghanistan now have a good starting point. Show a picture: ‘Women’s suffrage map of the world’ This picture is on page 18. This shows countries of the world in a global map, their names and a date when women achieved full suffrage there. The group leader can hold up the picture and describe it or make a game of it, asking group participants to guess which country was the ﬁrst to gain the vote, and then point to it for example. Are there any surprises on the ‘Women’s suffrage map of the world’? Discussion questions: ‘Women’s suffrage map of the world’ Does the group think it is important to have the vote? Do they think they will vote at the next election? Read a text aloud: How American women got the vote Listen to this story of how the women in America gained their political rights. American women did not become active in politics just to get more rights for themselves, but because there were important social issues that they felt
SESSION TWO: WOMEN AND POLITICS IN THE MODERN WORLD
strongly about but were unable to inﬂuence until they had a political voice. One of the issues these women cared about deeply was the question of slavery. They believed that it was wrong to keep other human beings as slaves. But in those days, it was permitted in the United States to keep black people as slaves. These women believed in equality – not only between men and women, but also between black people and white people. Another issue women cared about at this time – this was the 19th century, 200 years ago – was temperance, which means the belief that alcohol should be forbidden. Alcohol misuse in those days was destroying many families. Many men would receive their paycheck, then go to a bar and spend the entire month’s salary getting drunk. There would be no money left for food for their wife and children. Many women therefore believed that alcohol should be prohibited. But whatever the issue that was important to them, women found that because they could not vote they had no inﬂuence over the laws and that politicians did not listen to them, Women tried many different things to achieve their goal, the right to vote. They held a large meeting in Seneca Falls to discuss their strategies, and to get publicity for their plan. They published magazines and collected petitions and signatures. They organized marches and demonstrations. They gathered outside the White House, where the U.S. President lives and works, holding signs demanding the right to vote. Some of the women chained themselves to the White House fence so police could not send them away. (See page 23 for picture ‘American and British Suffragettes’) Beginning in 1878, the rule that would have allowed women to vote was presented to the American Congress during each session. It was denied many times. Each time it was denied, the women did not give up. Instead, they immediately worked to get it presented again. Finally, it passed. Just as in England, World War I was a turning point for American women, too. Women played such an important and active role, helping to defend their country and efﬁciently replacing men in factories and the workplace that it just wasn’t possible any more to say that they were less capable than men. American women received the right to vote in 1920, more than 40 years after it was ﬁrst presented to Congress. This is only one story, but this pattern was repeated in many countries, and women now have equal voting rights as men in the world. In fact currently in 25 countries women are head of state!! (See page 27 for picture ‘Women as Heads of State’) Discussion questions: How American women got the vote What sorts of things were done to discourage or stop these American women? What are the obstacles facing Afghan women today? How could a woman in a family become involved in politics if her husband did not want her to? How could she persuade him that she has something to offer politics and that her household would not suffer? (See page 53 and 54 for the Advocate story) Women sometimes used non-peaceful methods to win support. They marched loudly in the streets, they chained themselves to buildings, and some refused
OUR COUNTRY - MY ROLE to eat. One woman in England threw herself under the Kings horse and died. Have there been examples of such actions in Afghanistan? Do you think women gain or lose support with such actions? Break for refreshments Read a text aloud: Who are the Afghan suffragettes? The Afghan women’s movement has a story of its own. Fortunately there were men and women who encouraged and supported them. Here are just a few of them. King Abdurrahman abolished the custom of levirate marriage (where a widow is forced to marry her deceased husband’s brother). He raised the age of marriage, and gave women a limited right to divorce. King Habibullah prohibited the practice of overly expensive weddings, which were ruining many families. His wives stopped wearing the veil, in order to encourage other women to do this also, if they wanted to. King Amanullah introduced mandatory and free education for both girls and boys. His wife, Queen Soraya sponsored schools, such as the Malalai Lycee. Together with women from her family she started a social welfare organization, Anjuman-I-Himayat-Niswan. King Zahir Shah declared the wearing of the purdah or chadari to be voluntary. He built girls’ schools and hospitals for women. He enabled women to be sent abroad to be educated as nurses. Meena laid the foundation of the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan (RAWA). She organized numerous processions and meetings in schools, colleges and Kabul University to mobilize public opinion. She launched Payam-e-Zan (Women’s Message) in 1981. 200 women delegates attended the Emergency Loya Jirga. Dr. Massouda Jalal, ran for the position of President. Two women lawyers took part in the commission responsible for drafting the Afghan constitution. The current government includes four women ministers. The Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission includes ﬁve women and is chaired by a woman. (See page 42 and 43 for the Candidate story) Discussion questions: Who are the supporters of the Afghan women’s movement? Is it surprising to learn that Kings and Queens were working in the past to help the ordinary women? Is it inspiring that ordinary women have also been working to advance women’s rights? Can you think of any one else to add to the list? Has anybody ever joined in an activity promoting women’s rights? Does it make you feel different about having your basic rights in law now? (See page 41 for the picture of supporters of the Afghan women’s movement) Something to think about: The group leader can say: “In 1926 Queen Soraya made a speech and said: “Do not think that our nation needs only men to serve it. Women should also take their part, as women did in the early years of Islam.
SESSION TWO: WOMEN AND POLITICS IN THE MODERN WORLD
The valuable services rendered by women are recounted throughout history, from which we learn that women were not created solely for pleasure and comfort. From their examples we learn that we must all contribute toward the development of our nation...” So much has been done to give women a political voice in Afghanistan – how will you use this chance that has been given to you?”
OUR COUNTRY - MY ROLE
SESSION THREE: CIVIL SOCIETY
Thinking About Women in Civil Society
Activity: Discussions and exercises for a workshop Goal: To explain civil society and the ways in which women can be involved. Time required: 2 hours minimum - 3 hours maximum. Materials required: Comfortable and quiet sitting area for between 6 and 15 women. Small amount of food and drink for refreshments. Instructions: Participants enter and are seated in a circle. The group leader welcomes the group and gives the title and aim of the session. She reminds them that in the last sessions they learned that women are important in public life. They have seen how women have struggled for the right to be involved in public life, and how women have won this right in Afghanistan. Today, they will talk about some of the ways women can actually get involved. Read a text aloud: Farid’s garden and civil society Civil society refers to that part of society that acts between the government and the home. So that includes volunteer and charity groups; parent and teacher associations; senior citizens groups; universities; sports clubs; trade unions; and non-proﬁt think tanks. It also includes individuals or a small group of people who are working for a cause that is of interest to them, for example villagers who decide to work together to ﬁx a road. It might feel that participating in civil society is too much work. It often seems too complicated or too distant to think about. But to achieve a better society, one which is peaceful, stable and prosperous, everyone is needed to contribute to civil society and everyone can contribute in a small way. Listen to this story. Farid has a very large garden. He must grow all the vegetables and fruit that his family needs. Farid is married and has three sons and three daughters. The garden needs a lot of work and Farid does not have much money to pay for help or machines. Once, there was a bad spring in Farid’s garden. There was not enough rainfall and there was a snail eating much of the young plants. The family knew that unless something was done there would be no harvest that year. They sat together and talked about what could be done, Farid was a proud man and did not like to ask for help, but he realized that they needed help from someone else. Firstly, Farid and his wife went into the town and discussed with other neighbors how to get water. They decided to all go to visit their local government representative together. When the representative saw all the people coming to his room, he realized that he could not ignore them. Later in the month the representative announced that he had found help from an international organization and that water trucks would come to each street giving a certain number of water canisters per week. Farid was very pleased; now if he was careful there would be enough water. His wife was pleased with the representative, she saw he could be trusted and thought she might vote for him at the next election.
SESSION THREE: CIVIL SOCIETY
Farid’s daughter-in-law also had a good idea. Her brother knew someone who wrote for a newspaper and together they asked the journalist to write about their snail problem. The journalist told them that indeed the snail was a problem in the region and he decided to write a long article for the paper. Farid’s family was surprised to see the response to the newspaper article. At ﬁrst, people talked about it in the town, and then he was visited by someone from a local organization for farming called ‘Helping Afghan Farmers Organization’. This organization made a program for the radio, talking about how the snails were dealt with in other countries. Farid decided to try one of the methods from the program. All the egg shells were kept, dried and crushed up like grains of sand. Then a little of this sort of sand was sprinkled around the base of each growing young plant. The snails did not like this grainy texture and did not cross over it to climb up the plants anymore. By these ways, their garden was saved. In this story Farid and his family learn that help or improvement cannot come without people taking initiative or taking part themselves. In this way they are part of civil society. That is, people who work together to solve a communal problem, people who speak up for others who cannot help themselves, people who will not let a problem be ignored by the leaders. Discussion questions: Farid’s garden and civil society In the story which people or which groups can be described as being part of civil society? Is the representative part of civil society? Is the journalist part of civil society? Which activities can be described as being part of civil society? We know what work needs to be done in a garden, but what work needs to be done in Afghanistan? Farid cannot do all the work in the garden by himself; can the government do all the work in the Afghanistan alone? Ask the group if they can think of any other examples of organizations or activities that are part of civil society? In what ways do women take part in civil society? Break for Refreshments Work in groups of three: The group is divided into threes (trios). Each trio is given a ‘task’ and asked to think about how this task is being accomplished in their community. The group leader can create her own tasks or she can select one from the list below. Together they should discuss ways in which ordinary people could help to achieve the task. After 5 or 10 minutes maximum, one person from each trio tells the whole group what they suggest. The group leader can help with some ideas and examples if needed. 1. Task: We have no doctor in our town and we need a health clinic. What can we do? Starting suggestion: Write a letter to the government health ministry requesting a visit and urgent funding. 2. Task: We need a proper road. What can we do? Starting suggestion: Collect a long list of signatures from people who want a road built or ﬁxed and send it to the local government representative. Or write a letter to the government and a newspaper explaining why your town deserves a road. Ask for a reply. 3. Task: We have a teacher for our children but there is not enough money for food or materials. What can we do? Starting suggestion: Give a
OUR COUNTRY - MY ROLE few hours help for free to hand-made materials for the school; or work in the school fruit and vegetable garden. Or ﬁnd out about alternative ways like radio schools or Montessori schools, these need fewer bought materials. 4. Task: We need to ﬁnd a solution to the drugs problem. What can we do? Starting suggestion: Organize a youth meeting and invite a speaker to give a drugs-awareness talk. Work with an organization to enable your families to be independent of the drug trade. 5. Task: We want to sell our organic honey abroad? What can we do? Starting suggestion: Find out the legal requirements for exporting from Afghanistan and if there are any government ofﬁces that will help you establish trade. Or set up your own website on the Internet to advertise your product. Show a picture: ‘Civil Society’ This picture is on page 44. This shows one woman reading a newspaper to other women who cannot read themselves. The group leader can hold up the picture and show it to the group. She explains that though it is difﬁcult, women can participate in civil society even in small way. What small ways can women participate in civil society? Something to think about: The group leader says “Has anyone in the group been helped by a civil society organization? When and how? How did this make a difference to you? What skills do you have that you can share? Probably more than you think. This is a little quote; think about it what it means, when you are at home. “It is one of the most beautiful compensations of this life that no man can sincerely try to help another without helping himself.” (Ralph Waldo Emerson)
SESSION FOUR: HUMAN RIGHTS
SESSION FOUR: HUMAN RIGHTS
Thinking About Human Rights in Daily Life
Activity: Discussions and exercises for a workshop Goal: To give a brief introduction to the source of human rights and to give them relevance to everyday life. Time required: 2 hours minimum and 3 hours maximum. Materials required: Comfortable and quiet sitting area for 6 up to 15 women with some space to move around. A clock, watch or something to measure time. Small amount of food and drink for refreshments. Instructions: Participants enter and are seated in a circle. The group leader welcomes the group and gives the title and aim of the session. She asks the group what they already know about human rights. If necessary, she can explain what human rights are and where they come from using chapter four of this book. If the group knows a lot, then perhaps the ﬁrst exercise will not be necessary. Read a text aloud: Universal Declaration of Human Rights The new constitution in Afghanistan includes the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This means these human rights are now law in Afghanistan and the government is bound to uphold them. This law provides for an enormous range of rights for every man, woman and child within a country. These are so wide-ranging that they affect every aspect of the life of an ordinary person, without them even realizing it. The group leader should continue to read aloud the extracts from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This can be found on page 115 in the form of a poster. The group leader can cut it out and use in the workshop so that all the group members can see it. She can pass it around, or make photocopies if possible. Discussion questions: Universal Declaration of Human Rights The group leader can help the members to connect these human rights with their everyday life. She asks them if their families already follow these rules? If no, how would their lives be if they did? How can they ensure that these rules are followed? To stimulate discussion, the group leader can use these examples from the following list of some of the practices that cause women to suffer in Afghanistan. She can ask members to ﬁnd the parts of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that forbid these practices? • • • • • • • Girls in Afghanistan are often forced to marry before the legal age. Girls are obliged to marry someone they do not know, or someone they explicitly do not want to marry. Young women (and men) are prevented from marrying the person they wish to marry. Wives are beaten by their husband or other members of his family. Wives are not allowed to leave the house without permission. Wives are forced to work in the family household from early in the morning until late at night. One person telling lies about her can destroy a woman’s reputation.
Under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, these are some of the rights people in Afghanistan now have: • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • The right to life, liberty and security; The right to be treated equally before the law, even if you are poor or have low status; The right to a full and fair public hearing to determine your guilt or innocence if you are accused of a crime; The right to be presumed innocent until found guilty by a fair and legal court (if you are accused of a crime); The right to move and live freely within your country, and to use a passport to travel to other countries; The right to seek asylum in other countries if you are persecuted; The right to have a nationality; The right to marry and to start a family, no matter what religion or ethnicity you are and not be forced into marriage against your will. The right to own property and not to have your property taken away arbitrarily; The right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. This includes the freedom to change religion as well as the right to worship; The right to freedom of opinion and expression; The right to take part in the government of your country, directly or through freely chosen representatives; The right to work and to have equal pay for that work whether you are a man or a woman; The right to rest and leisure, including periodic paid holidays and not excessive working hours; The right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of you and your family, including food, housing, clothing and medical care; The right to special care and assistance to protect motherhood and childhood. All children shall enjoy the same social protection. The right to education, which should be free and compulsory at the elementary stage; The right to take part in the cultural life of your community. The right not be held in slavery or servitude; The right not be tortured; The right not be arbitrarily arrested or imprisoned; The right not have your privacy interfered with or your honor and reputation attacked.
Please note: The above extracts from the Universal Declaration on Human Rights are shortened and simpliﬁed versions of the actual articles. For interested women, the complete legal text can be found in Chapter 4 of the Our Country – My Role handbook.
OUR COUNTRY - MY ROLE Break for refreshments Read a text aloud: Real life human rights It is one thing to have certain rights on paper, and quite another to actually ﬁnd them respected in real life. You may ﬁnd that others in your surroundings – your neighbors, your local leaders, and even some members of your family – still think differently. Or, they may not have thought about these matters at all. In a family or with people you know, talking things through is often the best approach. People do things in a certain way because they think it is good, and right. If you can explain that another way is better, and will make everyone happier and more successful in their lives, you might get them to agree with you. Once a country is normalized and functioning properly, your rights are protected by the law, which in turn is protected by the police and the courts. If people try to take away your rights, you can then go to the police for help, or sue the person in a court of law, or take other such measures depending on the particular case. However, Afghanistan is still in the process of building its police and its court system, and things are not yet working as they should and as they one day will. By discussing these issues with people around you, you can make this good day arrive more quickly. Role play activity: Real life human rights. The group leader divides the group into smaller groups of three. She asks for participants to take on the characters from each role play scenario. In each scenario, one character feels that her rights are not being respected and consults two others to ﬁnd a resolution to the problem. There are four scenarios here and the group leader can chose which ones are most useful for the group. The ‘characters’ arrange themselves in a semi circle in front of the rest of the group and play out a conversation they might have to reach a resolution to the problem. The group leader should manage these role plays, offer help if the conversation is difﬁcult or stop the role play if it is becoming unreasonable or too long. Either way each role play should be no longer than 20 minutes. At the end, the whole group is asked to comment on the resolution of the problem. Role play one: Nazifa has given birth to non-identical twins. One baby is boy and one is a girl. Her mother in law tells Nazifa that she may not have enough breast milk for two babies and that she should only feed the boy. Nazifa feels that both babies have the right to be breast-fed but wants to avoid conﬂict in the family. She decides to talk to her family about it when they are having tea in the afternoon and the babies are sleeping. Characters: Nazifa – the mother of twins who knows her human rights Malika – the mother in law who is very religious Karim – son of Malika and husband of Nazifa, he tends a large ﬂock of goats for the family. Role play two: Bobani is 18 years old, a young unmarried daughter who has nearly completed high school. During her studies, it is clear that she is very talented with languages and she wants to become an interpreter and one day work for an international organization. Bobani’s mother and father are very loving but are concerned that Bobani is thinking about a career or working away from the family, especially with foreigners. They are worried about their reputation as parents and think
SESSION FOUR: HUMAN RIGHTS
their daughter should be satisﬁed with a life at home. Bobani decides to talk to them over the evening meal. Characters: Bobani – 18 years old, unmarried high school student Mother – works as a seamstress Father – works in the government ofﬁces Role play three: Soraya, a widow, helps to deliver babies in the area. She is known for her experience and skilled use of medicinal herbs. Many families have called on her services over the years and she has become a well respected. When Soraya learns that there will be a new local National Solidarity Program in her municipality, Soraya thinks she could really contribute to the program. She tells her family that she intends to see if she can get a job there. Her brother and his wife, whom she lives with, are shocked and don’t approve. Her brother thinks that she already has a lot of freedom and that she should be grateful for their generosity and not make problems for them. Characters: Soraya – 33 years old, widow, midwife Moshref – Soraya’s younger brother, a butcher Noorie – Moshref’s wife, tends the home and their children Role play four: Aﬁfa’s two children have died when they were a few months old. Aﬁfa’s doesn’t know why her babies died but Elham her husband blamed her. Elham wants a son and he is angry with Aﬁfa because she does not become pregnant. He has often struck Aﬁfa when he was very angry and now Aﬁfa feels scared and ashamed and depressed. One day, a close friend of Aﬁfa, tells her that her husband has no right to beat her. They decide to go and talk to the local Imam/village elder to see if he can help. Characters: Aﬁfa – 24 years old, tends the home, is regularly beaten by her husband Weeda – close friend of Aﬁfa, she knows her human rights Iman/village elder – a good person, who knows Elham well Show a picture: Human rights in Afghanistan The group leader shows the group the picture: human rights in Afghanistan. This can be found on page 55. It shows a man, a women and a child releasing three white doves into the air, these are the birds of peace. There are the colored ribbons from the afghan ﬂag around the people, to suggest that human rights laws in the Afghan constitution protect them. Something to think about: The group leader can end the session by informing the group of the addresses of any local organizations that can advise individuals if they feel that their human rights are being violated. For example, the nearest ofﬁce for the Amnesty International or Human Rights Watch or the Global Rights ofﬁce. She can then say to the group: “When you are at home or have a moment of peace, remember what you have learned about human rights and then consider this traditional Wolof saying ‘Mankind is the cure for Mankind’.”
OUR COUNTRY - MY ROLE
SESSION FIVE: TAKING PART IN POLITICS
Thinking About Women in Afghan Politics
Activity: Discussions and exercises for a workshop Goal: To introduce politics and the ways in which women can be involved. Time required: 2 hours minimum - 3 hours maximum. Materials required: Comfortable and quiet sitting area for 6 up to 15 women. Instructions: Participants enter and are seated in a circle. The group leader welcomes the group and gives the title and aim of the session. She reminds them that in the last sessions they learned that women about their basic rights and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. They talked about the ways we can live by human rights and help to make them a reality not only a legal document. Today, they will learn about politics and how by being involved in positive politics the quality of our lives can improve. Read a text aloud: The ﬁshermen’s wives In December 2004, there was a huge tidal wave caused by the movement of the earth’s surface under the paciﬁc ocean. This tsunami as it is known came crashing down on the coast line of 13 countries killing a total of and causing devastation to the coastal lands and livelihoods of millions. In the south of India, many ﬁshing villages were totally cut off, homes were washed away and there was nothing left. When the government representative came to distribute aid, they asked for a list of families from the villages, to know how many emergency supplies to bring. In the villages in India, there are small councils called Panyats who discuss and make decisions about the villages. Although the law says that at least one in three members of the Panyat should be women, in these villages, the women are excluded. The men from the Panyat gave the government representative the list of families but when the aid came there was not enough for everyone. This is because the men had not counted families where there was a woman as a head of the household. Even if the husband had died in the tsunami a few weeks before, the Panyat could not accept a family without a male head. So these families were left off the list and they received no aid. Moreover the emergency supplies did not include decent clothes for the women to cover themselves with, nor sanitary products for women to use during menstruation. The women felt uncomfortable and ashamed as well of loosing everything. Do you think these women would have been so neglected if they were able to make their needs known? Later a local organisation run by Indian women called IWID, came and brought aid materials to the women. The IWID women were skilled and experienced. They sat down with the men of the village and talked to them about their problems. In just a few months, in three coastal villages in India, women now come to the Panyat and are part of the discussions and decisions that affect them. Several women came together to start their own cooperative. They bought a boat and rent it out to the male ﬁshermen, who lost theirs in the disaster. From the money collected in rent they pay one part back to the moneylender and the second part they divide amongst themselves for their families. The idea for this scheme was their own.
SESSION FIVE: TAKING PART IN POLITICS
Group discussion questions: The Fisherman’s wives What does this story teach us about women and politics? Why is it important that women make their needs known and take part in the decisions that affect their lives? Show a picture: ‘The weavers of Besud’ This is on page 68. It shows three young women weaving on a loom. The group leader can hold up the picture and she can ask the participants: what do you think the lives of these women is like? Do you think that politics has anything to do with these women? Do you think any women or women like them can take part in politics? Read a text aloud: The weavers of Besud People think that politics is something that only politicians do but in fact whenever there is more than one point of view, there is always politics. Politics then, is simply the ways we use to gain or maintain support for a public or common action. One way to understand politics is to think of it as ‘persuading others to accept your point of view or idea’. Although the term is generally applied to governments, politics is part of all interactions in a nation, such as: administrative, legal, economic, business, academic, religious and civil society. Politics happens at all levels of decision-making in Afghanistan, from the head of state and the ministers in the government, to the Governors of every province and at the local district level. Every day, government representatives, administrative staff and interested people discuss different ideas and ways to manage the problems in Afghanistan and rebuild infrastructure. In these discussions some groups, experts or government ofﬁcials have very strong opinions or signiﬁcant scientiﬁc information – they have a certain political will or leaning. They lead the discussion in a certain way and hope to persuade others to agree with them. These discussions can take place in a formal setting such as a jirga, or they can be through the media, in newspapers and radio, they can be at events such as conferences and they can even be in private. This is politics and the decisions that are made in these discussions can be thought of as policies. In Besud, in the Maidan/Wadak province of Afghanistan, there lives a family of weavers. The men work mostly on the land riding horses, and the women tend to the home and family, help with the crops and weave carpets that are sold in Pakistan. They live in the countryside and have no electricity, no plumbing, there is no tarmac road nearby. There is not a school, or shop or health clinic for kilometres. Only one girl has been to school. This family live and work off the land – why should politics in a far away city matter to them? In fact the policies of the government matter very much. Afghanistan allows international trade so this family can sell their carpets abroad. Good local governance could bring new roads, then the family could have better access to the towns for clinics and markets. In Australia, where transport is difﬁcult in areas, there are radio schools so their children can learn from home. There could be radio schools in Afghanistan too, if there was the political will for it. For all these reasons the adults in the family must vote wisely in elections for an honest candidate who will care for their needs and work very hard to solve their problems.
OUR COUNTRY - MY ROLE If there is no such candidate, perhaps they could consider standing as a candidate themselves. Politics has everything to do with the quality of life for these people, whether in the city or the countryside, now or in the future. Work in groups of three: The group is divided into threes (trios). Each trio has to decide on one issue or concern or problem that they have in their family lives or community that they feel the government local or national needs to work on. After 5 minutes or so, one person from the trio tells the whole group what they suggest. The group leader can write each suggestion up for all to see, or she can draw a little picture for each suggestion if anyone in the group cannot read so well. The group leader then asks each group to imagine that they have been given 10 000 USD or enough money to buy a small new car. The group leader asks: how would they use this money on the problem they suggested? Let the trios work and discuss for a further 10 to 15 minutes maximum. Let one person from each trio tell the whole group their ideas. Is it easy to think of solutions to problems? Break for Refreshments Group discussion question: How women in Afghanistan can take part in politics The group leader says that: ‘In the presidential elections in October 2004, 40% of all the people who voted were women. That means that for every three men, two women voted. Indeed, voting in an election is one of the most direct ways of inﬂuencing the politics of a country. But voting it is not the only way to take part in politics. In every society there are ways and means of inﬂuencing the decisions made that affect your quality of life.’ She asks the participants to think of some of those ways. The group leader can help with suggestions and examples from Chapter 5, such as: 1. Stand as a candidate 2. Support a candidate 3. Use your expertise and social standing 4. Use the media to get a message across 5. Join a union or association 6. Capacity Building 7. Join in any organised events and meetings 8. If you cannot vote, you might be able to help someone else who can. 9. You can encourage another women who are trying to be active in politics 10. Wear a badge or pin on your clothes. 11. Add your name to a petition. 12. You can talk about your ideas or concern to someone who can speak out for you.
SESSION FIVE: TAKING PART IN POLITICS
13. Take part in surveys or questionnaires. 14. Keep interested try to follow what is happening in the news. Know your human rights and learn to live by them. Then others are less likely to take advantage of you. Work in groups of three: The group is divided into threes (trios). The group leader asks the trios to think again about the issue or concern or problem that they have in their family lives or community that they feel the government local or national needs to work on. The group leader asks: what political activity they could take part in that would help to solve the problem. Let the trios work discuss for a further 10 to 15 minutes maximum. Let one person from each trio tell the whole group their ideas. The group leader asks the participants if they might act on these suggestions in the future? Something to think about: the group leader can say ‘Some families are concerned that if women speak out and take part in politics they are being disobedient and could bring dishonour to the family. But if women are respectful and rational there is no reason why they should cause shame. When women get up, speak up and act for the common good, then they can move mountains’.
OUR COUNTRY - MY ROLE
SESSION SIX: AFGHANS CAN MOVE FORWARD: ISSUES IN PUBLIC LIFE
Thinking About The Future
Activity: Discussions and exercises for a workshop Goal: To identify the chief ways that societies move from harmful behaviour to positive behaviour. To practice and prepare women to take active roles in the transition ahead. Time required: 2 hours minimum and 3 hours maximum. Materials required: Comfortable and quiet sitting area for 6 up to 15 women with some space to move around. Note paper and pens. Instructions: Participants enter and are seated in a circle. The group leader welcomes the group and gives the title and aim of the session. She reminds the group that in all these workshops they have been looking at different ways how we can take part in public life: by developing civil society, by promoting human rights and by being active in politics. The group leader explains that now Afghan men and women need to bring the Constitution and human rights declarations to life: they need to live and breathe them in their homes and communities. The laws in any land are like the foundations of a new house – now we have to start building! Show a picture: Afghans can move forward. The group leader shows the group the picture: Afghans can move forward. This can be found on page 78. It shows a community health worker teaching a newly married couple how to care for their new baby. This could be the future for Afghanistan, one where health and information for mothers and fathers is available locally. It could be a future where men and women who marry are compatible. This picture shows a mother who is not too young to have babies. In this vision, men and women would be partners, taking care of the family issues together. Discussion questions: Afghans can move forward. The group leader can ask the participants what they think about the picture. Do they like these ideas in the picture? Then she can explain that if people want to make any sort of change they have to have an idea of what they want to change it to, this is called a vision. Having a vision takes imagination and courage to be different. The group leader asks the participants if any of them have a vision or ideas for the future of Afghanistan. The group leader can write these ideas up for all to see, or she can draw a picture of key words, if there are participants who cannot read so well. Read a text aloud: How the implementation of laws helps to change society. When it is difﬁcult or impossible to implement a law or change a practice in Afghanistan, people tend to say: “It is our culture to behave this way, we will not change”. They blame a long history of male-dominated traditions. They say that their religious beliefs do not permit them to change. However, every government has the responsibility to encourage good behaviour and practices by its
SESSION SIX: AFGHANS CAN MOVE FORWARD: ISSUES IN PUBLIC LIFE
citizens, for the good of all. Afghanistan is not the only country to be in transition. Other countries have gone through similar processes. In China, there was a practice to bind ladies’ feet with bandages because small feet were considered ﬁne and a good way to attract a groom. The bandages were very tight and painful and spoiled the ladies’ feet so they could not walk properly for life. This was a damaging cultural practice and when the 1911 Revolution of Sun Yat-Sen took place, the practice was banned outright and quickly disappeared from fashion. Despite overwhelming scientiﬁc evidence that smoking can kill, many people choose to smoke. It costs the government a lot of money in medical treatment when they become sick. Smokers are a danger to others who breathe their smoke, especially children and small babies. Smoking is a damaging cultural practice and governments feel justiﬁed in setting tough restrictions against smokers. In Egypt for example, a tobacco-producing nation, smoking has been forbidden on public transportation. In many European countries, smoking is not permitted in public buildings at all. In a lot of other countries, people must be over the age of 16 before they can even buy cigarettes. These laws are really working and there are decreasing numbers of smokers overall. In a lot of cultures, it is customary to celebrate special events with an alcoholic drink such as wine or beer. Alcohol can have serious side effects on the body if consumed in large quantities. If a person drives a car after drinking alcohol, he or she is more likely to have a serious accident. Twenty years ago, the number of such accidents in Britain was alarming. Men, in particular, would drink too much and then drive a car as an act of masculinity. Then the government made it illegal to drive after drinking more than one glass of alcohol. Policemen can stop drivers anytime and test them for alcohol consumption. Advertisements on television and radio made it unattractive to drink and drive. Now, attitudes have changed in Britain, it is socially impressive to decline alcohol at celebrations when driving. These examples show that traditions are not ﬁxed and societies are able to change. The people of Afghanistan can move forward, too. Women at the heart of every family can be powerful agents of this change. Women as the backbone of civil society can promote the rule of law. Women can uphold positive politics and peaceful dialogue. The role of Afghan women in public life is just beginning. Ask the participants: What is my idea? The group leader explains that these examples show us that societies can change attitudes. Women are the pillars of the family so we can help to move Afghanistan forward. Then she says: “Now it is time for us to think how we women can do this.” She asks all the women to think of one way, small or big, that can help to change attitudes in Afghanistan. The group leader says: “Every participant in this room matters, so every participant should say something.” They can give their answer or they can say ‘I can’t think of one right now’, but everyone should practice speaking in front of others.
OUR COUNTRY - MY ROLE The group leader can help participants by giving some examples from the book or by using the list below. 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. Have a vision of the future and try to live by it. Read and learn about other countries and how their societies work. How do they solve their problems? How do they live their lives? Join a network and work together with others who want the same things. Share your vision with others. Set a good example of positive behaviour. Know your human rights and the law and try hard to live by them. Know your human rights and the law and speak out when others violate them. Bring up your family with respect; do not commit violence against them. Take part in civil society and activities that promote change in society. Take part in politics and political activities that persuade people to share your vision. Have courage and hope. Be strong and believe that Afghanistan can change.
The group leader can end this exercise by congratulating the women for their ideas and remind participants to think of more ideas later in their own time. She can ask if any participants will really act on their suggestions. Sing a song: one clear and united voice The group leader asks participants to stand up and asks the participants to ‘shake out’ their limbs and roll their heads so that their bodies are relaxed and warmed up. Then she will ask the participants to sing a song. All participants can sing at the same time, and they can sing any song they like. After two minutes the group leader can say: “Stop, I can’t understand the words and it is not a pretty sound, I don’t want to listen!!” She will ask the participants to think of one song that they all know. She says: “Let us all sing this song at the same time.” The group leader can ask: “Why do you think is it important for women in Afghanistan to have “one clear and united voice?” and “Do you think it is easy for society to ignore a united, reasoned call for change?” Break for refreshments Read a text aloud: Afghans can move forward: issues in public life In interviews, women in Afghanistan say that health, education, human rights, and security are the main issues in their lives. Others add peace and environmental concerns, too, but the situation of women is the single greatest concern. That means that the majority of women in Afghanistan want improvements in the same things.
SESSION SIX: AFGHANS CAN MOVE FORWARD: ISSUES IN PUBLIC LIFE
There are a few issues that deserve a special mention in this session: Child marriages Maternal care Family violence Many Afghans ﬁnd it difﬁcult to talk about these private issues. These are taboo subjects – difﬁcult to discuss socially. Every culture has such taboos. Nevertheless, it usually helps to bring these subjects out into the open if we are to deal with them. In public life, we bring issues ‘out into the open’ by: • • • • • writing about the issue in books or the media making television and radio programmes about the issue holding public or government meetings to discuss the issue such as at a conference making plays, writing songs, painting pictures about the issue organising a special event to highlight the issue
Referring to religion is another way to discuss these matters. Islam speaks to these and many other issues in public life. In fact, the ideal Muslim society is one in which there is justice, peace, love and co-operation. Muslims are guided by the Qur’an and there are many suras and hadiths that speak to the sanctity and equality of human life. Work in groups of threes: The group is divided into threes (trios). The group leader says: “Now it is time to really practice all the skills you have been learning.” The group leader will read one of the tasks below to each trio. It does not matter if more than one trio has the same task. The trio has to work on the task for about 15 to 20 minutes. At the end of the task, each trio stands at the front of the participants and shows their work to the others. This should take about 5 minutes for each trio. The group leader can choose from these tasks or make up his or her own: As a consequence of a family dispute and clash between two families an uncle was killed in a family. So, to settle the dispute between the families, it was decided that one daughter should marry the son of the uncle. Islam says that no person should ever be arrested or imprisoned for the offences of others. “No bearer of burdens shall be made to bear the burdens of others” (Sura 6:164) Task: Make a short (3 minute) role-play to show what women can do to prevent this illegal marriage.
OUR COUNTRY - MY ROLE A threatening man in the community is pressuring you to marry your daughter to him. He is working for a local criminal who is very strong. But your daughter is only 15 and does not want to marry yet. “If anyone walks with an oppressor to strengthen him, knowing that he is an oppressor, he is gone from Islam” (Hadith) Task: What laws and human rights protect the daughter and her family from the threatening man? Share your information with the participants.
What is your vision of the perfect marriage? What do you know from other countries, or from reading magazines and watching television? Imagine one day in your marriage that you could live every day. Who would make the decisions, who would be responsible for ﬁnances, for example? Task: What is your vision of a perfect marriage in Afghanistan in the future? Share your vision with the participants.
Afghanistan is the 191st country to sign the United Nations Millennium Goals. One of these goals is to reduce by three-quarters, between 1990 and 2015, the maternal mortality rate. Task: If you were an elected Wolusual, the head of a district, what would you do to reduce the numbers of mothers dying in pregnancy and childbirth. Share this plan with the participants.
Women have been singing about freedom for centuries. One man, Muhammad al-Farsi, collected these songs from the harems of Morocco, a North African Muslim country. One such song is: Birdie! Birdie! To keep it I built a cage of silk And never thought it would ﬂy away After letting itself be tamed. This means that the women were waiting for the right moment to ﬂy free of conﬁnement with dignity, they were not ‘tamed’ at all. Task: Make up the words and tune to a song that mothers can sing to their children to teach them that family violence is wrong. Sing the song for the participants.
SESSION SIX: AFGHANS CAN MOVE FORWARD: ISSUES IN PUBLIC LIFE
A mother once said to her son: “Be a good student so that you will not have to take poor jobs like your father who is a cleaner.” She meant to encourage her son to study, but her husband heard the comment and was angry. He kicked the face and jaw of his wife until it was cracked and broken. She was lucky that a doctor could ﬁx it for her. A wise man loves and cherishes the mother of his family above all else. Task: Imagine this father and husband was your nephew and you are his aunt. What could you do to make sure that your nephew does not commit this sort of violence again? Tell the participants your ideas. Something to think about: the group leader can say: ”Child marriages, poor maternal care and family violence can and must all stop. Women can help by building a family culture of rights and responsibilities not shame and honour. Many countries have successfully taken the very same measures, Afghanistan can move forward too.”
OUR COUNTRY - MY ROLE
SESSION SEVEN: OUR COUNTRY MY ROLE
Thinking About my Role in Politics and Public Life
Activity: Discussions and exercises for a workshop Goal: Encourage women to ﬁnd a direct connection between their daily lives and their part in the political process. Time required: 1 hour minimum - 2 hours maximum. Materials required: Comfortable and quiet sitting area for 6 up to 15 women. A small amount of food and drink for refreshments. Instructions: Participants enter and are seated in a circle. The group leader welcomes the group and gives the title and aim of the session. This is the ﬁnal session of the workshops. Read a text aloud: Thinking about the role of women in society Consider the role of women in society in these two descriptions of women’s life. 1. With the exception of fetching water and washing clothes, all tasks outside the home are carried out by men or boys. On the other hand, the women participate in all domestic tasks, including house-building and repair work. The women have the longest working day in most homes, working from ﬁve in the morning until nine in the evening. They start the day’s work before dawn by making breakfast for the men who are going to work, and then feed and milk the animals. It takes a couple of hours to make the dough and bake bred, washing clothes and bathing babies and infants. Midday dinner is then prepared. After the evening meal and the washing up, work continues on the handicrafts. The young women do the heavy housework, clean the courtyard and collect the manure, which they dry in the sun and use for fuel. If they do not have big children to this for them, the women walk to get the water. Special pathways are followed to avoid being exposed to the attention of the adult male community. Men and older boys ensure that purdah is observed, which means checking on who enters the compound and which of the younger women leave if for places other than nearby houses and the water source. If other men visit, they also ensure that women of childbearing age are hidden from the view of the guests. If a women in purdah has to go the health center, her husband escorts her there or ﬁnds someone else to go with her. 2. Throughout the1980’s women continued to be engaged in formal politics and participated in the different ranks of the government. Although there were no women in the council of ministers, in 1989 there were seven female members in the National Assembly as well as women in prominent positions such as the president of the women’s council, and a chief surgeon to the military hospital. At this time, there were also women employed as ﬂight attendants for the National airline and female radio and television announcers. Indeed women worked as journalists, camera women, and in the printing house for text books. There were women in the security, intelligence, and the police agencies, and women
SESSION SEVEN: OUR COUNTRY MY ROLE
parachutists and even women veterinarians. Women and men worked together in the same ofﬁces and could travel in the same busses. They visited restaurants and went to the cinema. The women’s council organized social services and helped many women to learn how to read, type, hair dress and sew. They supported women, through advice and legal representation. The Ministry of Public health had special mother and child programs for the prevention of diseases, vaccinations, for breast feeding and family planning. Discussion questions: Thinking about the role of women in society The group leader can explain that both descriptions are about Afghan women, at approximately the same time in history. Are the participants surprised to see such a difference? What was the important role of the women in both groups? What issues were important to them? How where they able to inﬂuence their situation? Were their human rights being respected? In what ways were the women from both groups able to get information, support or exchange ideas? How do you think the women in the second description managed to fulﬁll their domestic chores and work outside the house? Do you think that the dignity of women in the both descriptions is the same - or does one group have more or less than the other? Read a text aloud: What can I do? Throughout the whole of history and especially in modern history, there were women who were brave, determined and believed that they could make an important contribution to society. And they were right. From great queens, poets, scientist, explorers, musicians, activists and artists, there were women who faced great obstacles in their society and left a lasting impression. Women around the world have organized themselves and worked to improve their lives and the lives around them. In some countries it is almost taken for granted that women and men earn the same, have paid holidays from work, have access to life long education, can take time off from work when they have small children and have a pension. They have rights to own property, to buy and sell goods, to travel freely and to choose how to live their own lives. Even in the countries neighboring to Afghanistan, more women can read and write, fewer babies and children die, fewer mothers die in child birth and there are more doctors. All these changes to the quality of their lives are due to the continual work of men and women working together, in government, in civil society and in homes. There have been women in Afghanistan and outside of Afghanistan who have organized themselves, campaigned for change, for choice and fairness. From well known women in history to more recent examples: women who went to the Bonn Conference, women who represented the districts at the Loya Jirgas and women who participate in the government bodies now, in the Ministry of health, the Ministry of women, preparing for the elections and working in non-governmental organizations. All these women have an opportunity to bring their talents and qualities to the task of rebuilding Afghanistan. However, do not forget that ordinary women have a role to play in shaping their present and their future to. There are no quick solutions to the problems of Afghanistan. People in Afghanistan have to ask themselves: what is my role in our country? Every woman must ask herself: what can I do?
OUR COUNTRY - MY ROLE Women all around the world, as mothers, daughters, sisters and wives, are the main care-givers in society. They raise the children, cook and clean, they are healers in the families and pass the knowledge of the home from one generation to another. Some women are even very powerful within the community. That is exactly why it is important that our voices are heard when decisions are made about the future of our country. And now that Afghanistan is a democracy, women have the opportunity - along with the women of forty-four other Islamic states in the world - to bring their voices into the political process. This is a good place for the group leader to mention that in autumn 2005, there will be one opportunity to actively contribute to the rebuilding of their country – the opportunity to vote at the national level. (Optional) Visual activity: Every single vote counts For this exercise, the group leader can ﬁll a cup on a saucer with water or tea, until the liquid is nearly at the brim. She asks then each member of the group to each pour a small teaspoon of water in to the cup. The group will see that the liquid stays at the brim for a while and then with one last teaspoon, the water ﬂows over the top and spills into the saucer. The group leader can say this to the group: ‘What do you think this game teaches us? With all the water in the cup, only one teaspoon of water can make the difference between a full cup and the cup spilling over. Sometimes women feel that their participation in an election does not really matter, or would not make a difference, especially when millions of other people are eligible to vote. It’s easy to think this, but it’s not true. Sometimes the difference between a candidate who wins and a candidate who loses is only a handful of votes, one of which might be yours. Every single vote counts and makes a difference’. Show a picture: Five Good Reasons The group leader can hold up the picture on page 93. It shows a hand, with ﬁngers outstretched and small pictures by the side of each ﬁnger. The group leader asks the participants to hold up one hand as a ﬁst, she asks them to stretch out each ﬁnger as she names it, according to the list below. She can say: ‘With this picture you can easily remind yourself and others of ﬁve good reasons for women to participate in politics and civil society. Thumb – Like thumbs and ﬁngers, women and men are different but worth the same. It’s best when all work together. The thumb reminds you to bring the voice of women into the political processes. Voting is like speaking your mind – no vote equals no voice. Qalam ﬁnger – This ﬁnger reminds us that in Islamic religion, we have equal rights and responsibilities. An important responsibility is to decide on your government. Middle ﬁnger – The longest ﬁnger and points the way to a brighter future in Afghanistan. Women’s talents are needed to improve life for all. Women should vote for a good candidate who will work to improve conditions and resolve the problems of Afghanistan. Ring ﬁnger – This ﬁnger signiﬁes the legal binding between man and woman and stands for the law. It reminds women to stand up for their human rights and to promote the rule of law in Afghanistan.
SESSION SEVEN: OUR COUNTRY MY ROLE
Little ﬁnger – This ﬁnger reminds us of our children. You have an interest in who is running your government and in the decisions that affect you and your family. Each woman must decide for herself how much she is able to join in the rebuilding of Afghanistan, but even the smallest effort will be a gift to the next generation. “ The group leader can repeat this exercise several times to help memorize it, as it will be a good aide-memoir for the participants once they have left the workshop. Something to think about: Our country – my role To signal the end of the session, the group leader can say: “After attending this workshop you might be inspired to take an active role in helping to rebuild your society. By taking part in public life; by networking with others; by contributing to civil society; by promoting the rule of law and human rights; and by setting a good example to others. It is up to you how active you can become, and what form that activity may take. You can be highly active, or not participate at all. But it is important that you are aware that you have an impact no matter which way you choose – for good or bad. In a democratic society, the choice is yours to make Thank you for attending these workshops. If you have found them useful, please share your experience with others“.
Acknowledgements Our Country My Role An International Initiative for the Inclusion of Women in Politics and Civil Society
This second edition of the handbook has been created by Women without Borders to empower women to participate and integrate in the political and reconstruction processes in Afghanistan. It is ﬁnanced by the United Nations Populations Fund (UNFPA) in Kabul. The second edition is commissioned by Dr. Massouda Jalal, the Minister of Women’s Affairs. The handbook is to be used throughout Afghanistan, in cooperation with the UN and other NGO partners. This project is sponsored and supported by UNFPA, Kabul, through the direct efforts of Paul Greening, their Programme and Staff Development Ofﬁcer. Women without Borders would like to thank the following individuals and organizations for their assistance with this project: Pooran Merandy Askin Beverly Hagerdon Thakur Asif Nazare Shams Dawoodzai Showcat Shefa Neda Shefa Abdul Kader Qalat Wal Sultan Mohammad Sarah Mchugh Nona Reuter Paul Greening, Programme and Staff Development Ofﬁcer, Kabul Noria Yahyapoor, Ministry of Women’s Affairs, Afghanistan Martina Handler, Women without Borders, Austria Elisabeth Kasbauer, Women without Borders, Austria Dr. Michael Pohly, University of Berlin, Germany Pauline Dion, UNAMA Senior Civic Education Ofﬁcer, Afghanistan Dr. Susanne Schmeidl, Swiss Peace, Afghanistan Beth Hooper, BBC, UK Joanna Godwin-Seidl, Austria
For more information about our organization please write to:
Salzgries 19/21, A-1010 Vienna, Austria, T: +43 1 533 45 51, F: +43 1 533 45 52 www.frauen-ohne-grenzen.org • email: ofﬁce@frauen-ohne-grenzen.org www.women-without-borders.org • email: ofﬁce@women-without-borders.org Bank account: BACA, account no.: 52085 371 101, BLZ: 12000 IBAN: AT68 1200 0520 8577 0401, BIC: BKAUATWW
About Women without Borders Women without Borders is an international advocacy organisation for women in politics and civil society, based in Austria. Women without Borders supports women all over the world as they strive towards the participation of women in all levels of decision-making. We uphold positive politics that advance the speciﬁc inclusion of women and brings their talents and energies in to public life. Women without Borders stands for non-violent and peaceful conﬂict resolutions in countries of transition and reconstruction. We promote a future without fear, suppression and violence. Through global dialogue, targeted information, with model projects and the creation of alliances with international partner organisations, Women without Borders empowers women towards positive change. Women without Borders activities in Afghanistan currently include: a Women’s Centre in Nimruz, basketball for girls in Kabul and the ‘Our Country My Role’ handbook and workshops throughout the country.
© Women without Borders 2005