Note: Dari version of this article was published on 17 July 2021
By Elaha Mohammadi
From the difficulties of getting a social presence to sexual harassment on the streets and workplaces, women in Afghanistan’s patriarchal society face many challenges. In this country, men often look down on women and treat them inhumanely.
Throughout history women have been viewed as “body, rather than mind and authority” and men have allowed themselves to determine women’s position which has been cruel and contrary to all the principles of human rights.
No doubt, in the past twenty-year with the presence of international organizations and thousands of foreign troops, women in Afghanistan have had a significant presence in social, economic, political, educational, and private sectors. However, the gains have come with countless sacrifices. Demeaning behaviors in Afghan society have always hampered women’s progress in the country. Given the international community’s extensive support and the billions of dollars that were poured into one of the poorest countries on earth during these 20 years, women could not use it effectively.
In the past 20 years, men dominated the leadership of the key institutions, government organizations, NGOs, and private sectors; they have determined women’s presence in these sectors, and women have had to pass through their filter at every stage.
Men dominate women’s lives, both public and private. It is always men who have authority and make the final decisions within families. It is always men who define values from their perspectives and determine what role women should play and how they should live.
In the Afghan family system, women are always at the bottom.
Undoubtedly, the patriarchal and religious family structure, made women’s public life difficult. The domination of men and the conservative social structure of tradition and culture have imposed considerable restrictions on women’s public and private life. In Afghanistan, women are facing complex structural limitations that affect women’s lives in various ways.
Even when women’s role in public improved, men’s leadership in the labor market, economic, cultural, and media organizations have hampered women’s progress and have exposed them to abuse, violence, and sexual harassment.
Now that the situation is deteriorating, and the Taliban are expected to return, it is feared that women’s achievements will be at risk. Amnesty International had announced that with the withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan, women’s achievements are at stake. This concern of human rights and women’s rights is valid and should not be ignored.
The international community, including the United States, should not view women’s achievements as a project. Women have fought tirelessly in the past 20 years. We took the opportunity firmly; each of us had started the fight for our basic rights from our homes and pushed it to the streets and then workplaces.
We fought relentlessly and fell to the ground many times for freedom and basic human rights in the 21st century. If these achievements are jeopardized now, an entire generation of Afghan girls who come after us would face even more challenges, difficulties, and inequalities. If the current achievements are not safeguarded, the next generation of Afghan women would have to go through the challenging paths that the current generation has been through.