“A Brave Man Stands For Women”: UN Women Afghanistan Launches the “HeForShe” Campaign in Afghanistan

Date: 16 June 2015

Kabul, Afghanistan – United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and Empowerment of Women (UN Women) Afghanistan Country Office, officially launched the HeForShe Campaign in Afghanistan on 16 June 2015. In order to localize this global campaign, the slogan “A Brave Man Stands for Women” was selected to influence the Afghan socio-dynamics of men-women relationships. The objective of this slogan is to acknowledge the challenge in surmounting those ingrained traditions, which are discriminatory against women. It underscores a courageous character for a man willing to overcome his own misconceptions and renounce harmful customs, which make women vulnerable. Furthermore, it denotes respect and homage for those men standing up for women’s rights, rather than those who debilitate women.

UN Women, Afghanistan Country Office staff members celebrating the successful launch of HeForShe event by taking a group photo, taking a moment to cherish their achievement. Photo: UN Women Afghanistan

In her opening remarks, Ms. Elzira Sagynbaeva, UN Women’s Country Representative in Afghanistan, highlighted the global message of the campaign. “The HeForShe campaign is a solidarity movement that brings together one half of humanity in support of the other half of humanity, for the benefit of all.”, said Ms. Elzira Sagynbaeva, as she welcomed the guests.

Identifying the status of women in Afghanistan a paradox, Ms. Sagynbaeva noted that, on one hand, Afghan women are highly valued for their role in binding families together, while on the other hand, their rights are undermined by harmful traditional practices.

While many of these practices are carried out under the pretext of safeguarding the honor of women and girls, she stressed, standing strong for the rights of mothers, sisters, wives and daughters is the true way to demonstrate honor.

Ms. Sagynbaeva summoned Afghan men and boys to take positive action for the women and girls in their communities. “Afghan men and boys have shed blood for freedom, shown great courage and bravery for their motherland. This is another call for honoring justice. The HeForShe campaign calls upon your courage to pledge your commitment in championing this movement within your personal and professional circles and taking action to promote gender equality.”, Ms. Sagynbaeva added.

The ceremony was attended by Mr. Nazir Ahmadzai, Deputy Secretary of the Lower House of the Parliament; Members of the Parliament; Members of the Provincial Councils; government officials; representatives of embassies and international organizations; civil society, academics, business community and media. The total number of participants at this kick-off event reached more than 250 people.

Photo: UN Women Afghanistan

Mr. Nazir Ahmadzai, thanked UN Women for undertaking such an initiative and underlined the importance of women’s participation across sectors — political, economic, cultural and social. Among other recommendations, he encouraged the Ministry of Hajj and Islamic Affairs to continue raising awareness about women’s rights through mullah imams (clerics). He added, “It is the responsibility of men to support women so they carry out their various roles in the society.” He also called on international community’s further support for Afghan women as they are still faced with so many challenges in the Afghan societies.

Mr. Bari Salam, a member of the civil society, who delivered the first testimony of the event, said, “One of the biggest factors in women’s struggle for justice in Afghanistan is Afghan men’s misperception of Afghan women. Unless we, men, change the way we perceive women, gender equality will remain out of reach.”

Subsequently Mr. Haseebullah Kalimzai, member of the International Relations Commission of the Upper House of the Parliament applauded UN Women for the launch of such an effective campaign and hailed it as the best implemented so far in the area of gender equality. He expressed his excitement for being able to support Afghan women and made commitments to continue providing them such support in the future. “During the elections of the Administrative Board Members and Heads of Committees of the Senate, nine out of twelve seats were won by women, which in itself is a testimony of men’s support for women in the Parliament.”, he added.

Photo: UN Women Afghanistan

In this series of testimonies by male champions of women’s rights, the next testimony was by Mr. Abdul Qadir Rahimi, Regional Director, Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission from Herat Province. Mr. Rahimi shared his story of a movement he has initiated in the western region of the country, with a goal similar to HeForShe, i.e. developing a network of powerful men to stand for women’s rights. So far, more than 25 men, from western provinces of Afghanistan, have joined this movement and he expects the number to grow manifold in the years to come.

The next speaker, Mr. Zia Mobalegh, Director of Henrich-Boll-Stiftung in Afghanistan, referred to the violation of women’s rights as a reflection of violation of the rights of entire humanity. He deemed women’s presence in the workforce of the country a major prerequisite for change and development. “In the twenty-first century, when women’s rights to study, work, drive and participate in social and political affairs of the country is considered to be a very normal trend in most parts of the world, limiting women from all these activities is totally unacceptable.”, said Mr. Mobalegh.

The session of testimonies from male advocates of women’s rights was concluded with a very emotional and awakening speech, by Mr. Amir Mohammad Dara Noori, a tribal elder from Nangarhar province. Mr. Noori began his testimony with a poem in Pashtu language that called for elimination of all types of violence and discrimination at the global level. Mr. Noori also vowed to remain committed to valuable initiatives such as HeForShe and to support its roll-out at the provinces. He added “It is clearly not enough to launch this campaign only in Kabul, we should take HeForShe to all provinces and districts of Afghanistan; so all Afghan men and boys receive these messages.”

The speakers also noted that while advancements in achieving women’s rights has been one of Afghanistan’s main achievements since 2001, gender equality continues to be a major challenge in the country. They praised the efforts and commitments made by the Unity Government of Afghanistan in tackling the serious issues faced by Afghan women. The goal of equal opportunities for men and women, boys and girls across sectors can only be realized if men and boys join women in this worthy struggle that impacts the lives of every member of the society, male or female.

The HeForShe Global Campaign targets 1 billion men and boys to sign up for and commit to the cause by the time of the UN General Assembly in September of 2015. However, it was emphasized that the success of the campaign cannot be only measured by the number of people signed up, but also by quality of actions taken by men and boys to eliminate all forms of violence against women and girls. Ms. Sagynbaeva called upon all Afghan men and boys to take active part in the campaign by proving their ability and will in form of action in their society.

Arash Barez, famous young Afghan singer pledged his commitment for the achievement of gender equality and empowerment of women by signing the certificate. Photo: UN Women Afghanistan

The session for testimonies was followed by a musical performance of talented and young Afghan Stars, Mr. Arash Barez and Mr. Daud Pazhman. The program was concluded with online sign ups by all male participants, including VIPs, as well as signature of the wall banner and certificates.

The HeForShe campaign in Afghanistan aspires to commence honest discussions and dialogues among Afghan men and boys about the issues faced by Afghan women in their continuous struggle for equality. UN Women Afghanistan hopes that every Afghan man and boy, particularly the younger generation, acts as a catalyst of change by embracing the mission of the HeForShe campaign, each a ripple effect with wide outreach.

Over the next four months, the campaign will be launched at different provinces of Afghanistan provinces. Moreover, UN Women is also seeking partnerships with universities in Kabul interested in promoting this campaign.

 

Visit UN Women Flickr for more photos. Photos: UN Women Afghanistan

 

About UN Women

UN-Women is the UN organization dedicated to gender equality and the empowerment of women. A global champion for women and girls, UN-Women was established to accelerate progress on meeting their needs worldwide.

For more information, visit www.unwomen.org or the UN-Women Afghanistan Country Office, UNOCA Compound, Jalalabad Road, Kabul, Afghanistan Tel: +93 79 797 97 40, Email: haseebullah.habibi@unwomen.org