Education and geography hold key to gender equity in Afghanistan: Study
KABUL (Pajhwok): For women, education and for men, where they live may be key for the future of female leadership.
Research findings indicate higher education would possibly catapult women into the leadership of Afghanistan in the future. In this regard, men’s perceptions of women’s role in society also may be affected by levels of education, but is even more drastically different depending on the region in Afghanistan they live. That is to say, men in one part of Afghanistan are much more likely to support women in leadership roles than in other regions, regardless of their education.
AREU and SCA jointly conducted the research from July 2015 to January 2016 in Kabul, Nangarhar, Takhar and Bamyan provinces. Two hundred women and 200 men were interviewed by the researchers. The study The Other Side of Gender Inequality: Men and Masculinities in Afghanistan asked respondents whether they disagree with 20 statements related to the perceptions of masculinity; attitudes towards equality, power and control; and opinions about violence. This analysis focuses on responses to the statement: “Respondent’s opinion towards the view that “Men are better leaders than women.”
Differences of view based on education
Among uneducated people, almost all believe that men are superior leaders. However, this is opposite among educated individuals, especially among educated women. Three times more educated women, compare to uneducated women, do not believe in the superiority of men as leaders.
The research shows three in every 10 educated women and one in every 10 uneducated women deny the sole leadership competency for men.
The number of educated men who believe that leadership affairs shall rest with them is slightly higher than uneducated men. The research data suggest the concept that leadership shall be with men is lower among educated people.
Shahla Farid, Law lecturer at Kabul University, said public awareness about women’s rights increased with education in a community. Awareness of women’s rights also leads to an enhanced leadership role for them, she added.
During the past 14 years when education was promoted in Afghanistan, people realised that women also had leadership qualities, she said, adding only a small number of educated women with low confidence supported men’s leadership because they faced disgrace at the hands of men and deprived from decision making discussions historically.
Some women did so because they were affected by the old culture and traditions that were loaded against females, the lecturer observed. Such women think they cannot work better than men. She rejected the notion as false because women are sometimes better than men in leadership
Samila, a resident of Kabul, also says both men and women should have equal contribution to leadership. She complained of patriarchy in Afghanistan, where key leadership positions are controlled by men due to unwholesome customs.
“Some years back, I created an NGO and struggled to make it a success. But, unfortunately, after a year my husband forced me to give him the ownership and warned me several times if I don’t do this, he will kill me,” she claimed.
However, she is optimistic about the improvement of the situation. The number of educated men is increasing, and so is the number of girls at schools and universities. Samila believes with an increase in the number of educated people in society, the situation will get better.
According to the Central Statistics Organization (CSO), more than a million girls and 3.2 million boys were enrolled in schools across Afghanistan in 2002. The Presidential Palace says 3.7 million girls and 5.9 million boys are currently attending schools. So while there were three boys for every one girl attending school in 2002, now there are only two boys for every one girl.
According to Mujib Mehrdad, spokesmen for the Ministry of Education, during the Taliban regime from 1996 to 2001, girls were not allowed to attend school. But since then the number of girls has increased at schools.
Mehrdad cited insecurity, denial of permission, a shortage of female teachers and long distance in some areas as reasons for the lower enrollment of girls in schools. However, the ministry is making efforts to improve the situation.
Males in certain regions much more open to the idea of female leadership
Based on the research of AREU and SCU for Afghanistan, the number of males who disagree that males make betters leaders in northeastern Takhar province was five times higher than in eastern Nangarhar.
Inhabitants have also an impact in this regard. The findings show nine in every 10 men in Nangarhar, eight in Kabul, seven in Bamyan and six in Takhar think men are more competent as leaders.
Shahla Farid said the number of people opposed to women’s leadership was high in a number of provinces due to traditional customs and lack of awareness programmes. But she added the number of such men in certain provinces was pretty low.
“I have seen men and women attending workshops together in Bamyan and Takhar provinces. Majority of men are not against women’s leadership there,” she maintained.
Difference of view based on age
The view that the control of affairs and leadership shall remain with men is bit higher among older people. The research shows eight per cent fewer youth (men and women) than elders believe that male leadership is better.
Shahla Farid said the number of older people believing that only men had leadership qualities was high compared to young people because the older still believed in traditions in which women had no right to get education, go to work and take part in decision making on various family matters.
She said depriving women of education or giving them no say in vital decisions on their future was part of entrenched old traditions. According to Farid changing mindset of someone after the age of 45 was a difficult task, but the new generation gave women the right to leadership because they were living in a different time and earned awareness on women rights and ability to lead, she remarked.
Youth are also given a bigger part in awareness programmes because psychologists have proved that changing the minds of people over 45 years of age is difficult than influencing the mind of young people, Farid explained.
She asked the government to provide more education facilities for people, particularly women, and launch more public awareness programmes to enable the women to play a bigger leadership role.
Of the 23 cabinet ministers, four are women and one of the 34 governors is also a woman. Of the 351 parliamentarians, 96 are women.
The Future for Women in Leadership
Compared with men, three per cent more women (79% vs 82%) believe leadership should be with men. However Faruq Sawab, advisor to the Ministry of Women Affairs, says the research in four provinces cannot be representative of the whole country.
He adds three per cent is not a big number and that there could be various factors, including the inhabitants, literacy and lack of self-confidence among women, shaped such mentality.
“Logically and from the human rights perspective, neither men nor women have the right to deny each other’s rights to participation in leadership and contribution to service delivery,” he reasons.
Women have a leadership role at home, according to the advisor, who said females could be successful anywhere and would have self-confidence to excel in all spheres of life.
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