Unrest behind trampling of Faryab women’s rights
MAIMANA (Pajhwok): Groups advocating women’s rights and members of the provincial council say though the situation of women has considerably improved during the past one decade, their participation in important political decision-making and social activities remains lukewarm in northern Faryab province.
They say after the ouster of the Taliban regime, women got some freedom and started going to seminaries, schools and formed dozens of cultural, civil society and rights groups and have joined media and vocational organizations.
However, insecurity, male-dominance and lack of trust in government and non-governmental organisations by their families have restricted women from having a broad participation in decision-making.
Faryab provincial council chief Syed Abdul Baqi Hashmi said a number of families had a negative perception about women working in government and NGOs as they believed if their women joined these organizations, they would get involved in immoral activities.
He told Pajhwok Afghan News families should themselves respect their women by allowing them to get education, join offices and like men support their families and do service to their country.
Hashmi said the women of Faryab had a key role in the last presidential and provincial council elections, but they could not obtain their due share in political and social affairs.
Fariba Toryani, a female member of the provincial council, said the growing insecurity had threatened women’s activities and remained the key hurdle in their empowerment. Clashes, blasts, terror and threats had discouraged women from playing their role in the society, she added.
She called the Taliban and the newly emerged Islamic State groups as key threats to women because their presence crippled efforts at paving the way for women to work outside their homes.
“The enemies of Afghans, particularly terrorist groups, through their propaganda against the women want to pollute people’s minds and prevent women’s activities,” she said.
She said the women should continue struggling for their legitimate rights and freedom in line with Islamic rules and no one could deprive them of their rights.
The provincial council member also criticised women’s gains as insufficient during the past 13 years and said the international community had spent much on women’s training, education, rights, capacity-building and empowerment, but the gender’s status remained the same on political and social fronts.
She said the presence of women in government and educational organisations was not satisfactory and they should be given 50 percent participation in these organistaions keeping in view their population.
A civil society activist, Yalda Saeedi, called insecurity the main hurdle to women’s advancement, saying threats from insurgents and illegal armed groups had been creating huge problems for women over the past 13 years.
She said the fate of women’s foundations, which had been receiving various kinds of aid for more than a decade, currently hanged in the balance.
She described financial and moral corruption in organisations among other problems the women faced, saying this phenomenon had blocked women’s progress.
Faryab Women’s Affairs Director Sharifa Azimi said women’s role in the society had strengthened despite threats from armed militants and others. She said women braving these threats were discharging their official duty in Maimama, the provincial capital, and districts.
“We cannot say women’s participation has been low. Even in Garziwan district which is the most violent, veiled women go to work and monitor women-related projects there,” she said.
Azimi said a delegation of women last week arrived from the volatile Qaiser district at the women’s affairs department and accepted work tools. The women from Qaiser had created five new 20-member groups engaged in weaving carpets, crochets and rugs in the district.
A resident of Qaiser district’s Besh Kapa area, Qamar Gula, who had joined one of the groups, said earlier she would obtain materials from carpet buyers at unjustified high rates. She said three women would weave a carpet in three months and would end up earning few afghanis.
“This income was insufficient to fulfill my family needs as my husband and sons are jobless. Now the French NGO Acted has provided me a workshop, thread and other essential equipment. Now I can work in a free manner and earn much more money.”
Another resident of Qaiser, Fauzia, said she headed a family of 12 and her husband was a daily wager and they were living hand to mouth.
She said since joining the programme, she had learned many things like how to improve standard of living, develop contacts with neighbours and good treatment of others, something that changed her way of thinking. “In the past, I would not go out of home and I lacked the courage to do so, but now I have arrived in Maimana city without a male escort.”
Faryab deputy governor Abdul Sattar Bariz said women had a considerable role and presence on different levels. He said women’s presence in educational institutes reached 50 percent in Maimana and most of the districts. He said most of the girls’ schools were headed by women and the folk had an active role in government departments.
He said heads of women’s work and social affairs departments were women and many women worked in government departments. The provincial council has three female members and as many female lawmakers represent Faryab province in the Wolesi Jirga, the deputy governor said of women’s empowerment.
Last month, Faryab Women’s Affairs Director Sharifa Azimi was among 10 women who received Malalai Award from the Presidential Palace in Kabul at a ceremony, which was attended by civil society and women’s rights activists and all provincial women’s affairs directors from the 34 provinces.
Participants of the ceremony that took place on August 26 identified insecurity, negative traditions and economic problems as main hurdles in the way of women’s development. Addressing the award ceremony, Women’s Affairs Minister Dilbar Nazari said insecurity had prevented women from realising their status in the society. She said improved security could encourage women to properly play their role in society.
Hashmi said 360 incidents of violence against women, including 30 murders, took place in 2014 in Faryab and 372 incidents, including six murders, were registered with her department during the first six month of 2015. Other incidents include suicides, beatings, runaway from homes, divorces and others.
She said this year’s incidents of violence against women showed a 50 percent increase over last year’s but it did not mean violence against women had increased. She said the surge was a result of the creation of social and advisory councils for registering cases of violence against women and spreading awareness among them about their rights. She said women in the past would not register cases of violence against them due to unawareness about their rights.
Three women have been killed during the past one month in Faryab. Two of the slain girls aged 17 and 18 years were relatives. Two men tricked the two girls into going with them to a prayer centre in the Qaiser district. Their strangulated bodies were found near the centre, prompting local residents to call for closure of such centres and the arrest of the killers.
The third girl was killed by unknown people in the Khwaja Sabz Posh district and the incident is currently being investigated by the Afghanistan Human Rights Commission (AHRC).
AHRC chief for Faryab Syed Hafiz Sadat Fitrat condemned these murders and urged the justice and judicial organs to punish the killers in accordance with the law.
He said the government should close such prayer centres which created problems for families. He said often engaged and married men fell in affairs with other women at these centres, developing distances with their own wives and fiancées.
Figures with the AHRC show more than 2000 persons were subjected to various forms of violence, including physical and verbal, during the past three months across the country.
A member of the commission, Latifa Sultani, said most of the victims of suicide attacks, landmine blasts, decisions of kangaroo courts and domestic violence happened to be women.
She said murders of women and suicides among them had increased this year in northern and southwestern provinces.
The AHRC says the women’s situation in Afghanistan remains deteriorated. The commission says women lack personal and work security and their gains have recently been threatened and the gender bears the brunt of the growing insecurity in the country.
Afghanistan is ranked among the world’s 10 worst countries to be a woman and an average life expectancy for Afghan women is 45 years, a year less than Afghan men.
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