"We must make it our top priority to end gender inequality in Afghanistan!"
Date: Tuesday, October 15, 2019
Author: Shukria Yari
Our patriarchal system is one of the pernicious impacts of the four decades of war in Afghanistan. Gender inequality is one of the root causes of instability and violence in a country where women are treated like second-class citizens. And most women who are born into a patriarchal society themselves develop an unyielding belief that they are not as good as men. This belief holds them back from doing what they are good at and prevents them from recognizing their rudimentary rights. A patriarchal system is built upon people having an inadequate understanding of their rights.
In a country like Afghanistan, it is very hard to be a woman because you have to take a lot of responsibility for the consequences of how you behave or talk or even think. There are a (very) few fortunate and privileged women who are pursuing their aspirations. But for a woman to do what she desires to do; a lot of diligence and sacrifice is required.
I have heard a lot of wrenching stories like a girl given away as a slave to settle a family dispute, a young woman traded to another family in exchange for a second wife for her father, a woman blamed for not giving birth to a baby boy. And so on and so forth. It makes me wonder: How many more stories are there like these but have not been revealed? How can we end all this? Where do we start?
Ending gender inequality is not so easy because it takes ages. However, it is also not impossible. If each of us makes little changes, we can have a positive impact all around. By speaking up, writing and talking about these problems, we can spread awareness and help to gradually change the mindset of society.
Further, there are a few steps that the Government and national and international non-governmental organizations should give top priority to if the promises of the Beijing Declaration are to be fulfilled.
First, education is of great help in dismantling gender inequality because it shapes the mindsets of men and women. We need more quality institutions, schools and universities. Moreover, it’s essential to have a curriculum that teaches students about gender equality from a very early age.
Second, the Elimination of Violence against Women law enacted in 2001 raised hopes for victims but it has been largely ignored by the criminal justice system, according to a May 2018 United Nations report. Many cases never make it to court. And while President Ashraf Ghazi promised to adopt a zero-tolerance policy when he came to power in 2014, the attacks against women continue.
Third, as former United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan said, “There is no tool for development more effective than the empowerment of women.” The Government should facilitate the inclusion of women in political, economic and social life. Women make up half of the country’s population. Their inclusion is essential if we are to achieve equality, progress and peace. A nation cannot be built if any of its inhabitants are excluded.
The Constitution needs to be amended if women are to have equal rights. For instance, Article 70 sets the minimum age for marriage at 16 for females and 18 for males.
I understand that preaching about solutions is much easier than implementing them. Yet it is not unfeasible to bring a stop to gender-based discrimination if we have a good Constitution and the help of vigilant and resilient leaders, activists, and United Nations and other international organizations.
Shukria Yari, 22, was born in Jaghori district, Ghazni province, Afghanistan. She migrated to Pakistan as a child, returned to Afghanistan, then moved to India as a refugee. She has been living in New Delhi for the past seven years. Shukria studied international affairs on a scholarship from O.P Jindal Global University and graduated in 2018. After graduation, she worked with BOSCO-UNHCR and now works at GLRA-India (German Leprosy Relief Association) while also studying at the Alliance Francaise. She wants to help women solve their problems and later work with Afghanistan’s human rights commission.
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