A lot more needs to be done for women - GulfToday

A lot more needs to be done for women

Afghan Women

A girl looks on among Afghan women lining up to receive relief assistance in Jalalabad, Afghanistan. Reuters

Our lives would have been an incomplete exercise and a wobbly sojourn without the active presence of women. We are all here because of women, our mothers.

Yet a day doesn’t go without reports about the victimisation of women. And they emerge from across the world.

The reports are either about harassment or about manhandling or about assault or about rape or about murder.

It is very unfortunate that whenever some countries face a political crisis the safety of females becomes a huge concern for the authorities.    

Of late politicians and others have been worrying and discussing the safety of Afghan girls and women after the American troops leave the strife-torn country of Afghanistan. With the authorities’ focus entirely on the process of withdrawal little thought seems to have been given to the fate of thousands of Afghan women, who have been educated and taken up jobs, in the past two decades since the hardliners were defeated. The same holds good about the fate of girl students.

Over a third of Afghanistan’s nine million school children are now female, but those numbers are shrinking as the extremists are not allowing girls’ education in the rural areas.

According to a news report, the students are deeply worried, but have ideas about how Americans can still help. “Don’t give up on us,” urged Yasmeen Mohammadi, a graduate of Bucknell University in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, who is starting a master’s degree at University of Pennsylvania. She was born a refugee after her parents fled in the 1990s. When her family returned to Afghanistan in 2005, her father chose the poor Dasht-e-Barchi neighbourhood of Kabul, because he wanted to send Mohammadi to the unique Marefat School.

The school was founded by another returned refugee, the visionary Aziz Royesh, who sought to give equal educational opportunities to girls. “My dad would always say ‘I’m ready to sell my eye for your education,’” Mohammadi recalls. “Marefat really gave me motivation, and our teachers were hopeful for the future. I grew up at a time when girls were treated like human beings.”

I visited the Marefat school in 2010 and was deeply moved by the steely determination and optimism of female high school students. Their open confidence was a far cry from my 1999 visit to Kabul under the hardliners when girls’ education was banned. Mohammadi was helped by the New Jersey-based Afghan Girls Financial Assistance Fund (AGFAF) to attend high school and college in America, and now wants to create educational projects for people in war zones.

With AGFAF’s help and fundraising, she built the first library for the visually impaired at the Kabul School for the Blind.

Another huge problem that girls in some countries face is unreasonable pressure at home when it comes to marriage. They aren’t allowed to make a choice. In fact, the opposite happens. They are forced to marry men selected by their guardians. Girls often crumble under the pressure. Some take extreme steps like committing suicide. We keep reading reports about the issue. Sometimes they are killed, like it happened in Rome, for refusing to accept decisions made by their parents.

Police in Italy are searching for the body of an 18-year-old Muslim girl suspected to have been killed by her family after refusing an arranged marriage. The girl’s parents, an uncle and two cousins are under investigation for murder, Lieutenant Colonel Stefano Bove of the Carabinieri police said recently.

There is no doubt that a lot has been done for women, but a lot more needs to be done. We need to fight on because the weight of evil, fuelled by some men, is an ever-growing corollary to human existence.

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