Afghan women started from abysmally low school enrollment for girls with very few women venturing out of their homes and being employed. Today, in a time span of a few years, women have made rapid progress. There is a huge emphasis on girls’ education, and their enrollments have been improving over the years. Women are now going out educating themselves, working as teachers, starting businesses and contributing to their country’s economic development.
Afghanistan implemented its “Elimination of violence against women Law” three years ago. There are still many gaps in the implementation of this law though some progress has certainly been made. Though crime against women seem to have gone up, yet women are feeling more comfortable in reporting them. The figures may also be considered in the background of very low reporting of crime against women earlier.The conviction rates are quite high, but the number of cases that go to trial are still pretty low. It will take much better enforcement and faster trials along with change in traditional mindsets to curtail crimes against women and to improve their status in Afghan society.
President Karzai has called violence against women a social menace. Violence against women got aggravated as a result of the constant wars that the country has faced. Social standing of women was deeply impacted during the harsh Taliban regime. A woman had no rights either at home or outside her home. Her identity, her decisions, everything depended upon the men in her life – first her father, then husband and then sons. She had no right to education or work outside the home. Compared to those days, there is some progress, but both men and women agree that a lot of change still remains to be brought about. Cultural shackles need to be broken, and awareness is the key here.
Even today, conservative Afghan society does not look very benignly at women working outside their homes even if they are the sole breadwinners for their families. Small government organizations as well as international aid organizations are promoting employment opportunities for women to make them economically independent and self-sufficient. For many of these women, it is not about empowerment but necessity that drives them outside their homes to earn and feed their families. Most of these women are widows or have husbands that have been incapacitated or afflicted with drug addiction.
Having and seeing more women out in the marketplaces as workers and employees, as judges, lawyers, professionals and teachers will help increase their visibility. It will also enable and inspire other women to find their foothold in this conservative society. And, the freedom may help them raise their voices against atrocities committed against them and demand real change. Afghanistan’s women feel that for the peace process to be successfully implemented, women’s causes and their safety must be given a priority as well.
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