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It’s time to stand (and shout) with Afghan women

Tuesday, March 15, 2011 by Marianne Elliott

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A couple of weeks ago I alerted you all to a concerning move by the Government of Afghanistan to take over women’s shelters in the country. Many of you responded to this issue by writing to your Ambassadors in Kabul and to other key players. Thank you!

As a result of international pressure, the Government of Afghanistan did back down on this issue, although I remained a little bit skeptical as to their governments actual commitment to ensure the shelters remain independent and effective.

Threat to Women’s Rights in Afghanistan

This episode was only the latest in a series of signs that the Government of Afghanistan are making concessions to the demands of the most conservative religious factions in Afghanistan, including the Taleban. Some of you may remember that in 2009 the Afghan parliament passed a controversial Shia Family Law which effectively legalised marital rape and child marriage.

In order to give you some perspective on the attack on women’s shelters, I asked Horia Mosadiq – Afghanistan researcher for Amnesty International – to talk to us about the current situation in Afghanistan. In particular I wanted to know what the impact was, especially on women, of current moves towards political reconciliation with the Taleban and the international community’s focus on withdrawing military forces by 2014.

Interview with Horia Mosadiq

Here is the recording of my conversation with Horia (which you can also download and listen to in your own time)

Interview with Horia Mosadiq

Stand (and shout) with Afghan Women

Horia doesn’t pull any punches when it comes to human rights generally, or the rights of women in particular. Five years ago she and I often found ourselves opposing the prevailing view amongst the political thought-leaders in the international community who argued that Afghanistan wasn’t stable enough to address past injustices. As Horia said in this interview:

“There is no short cut to stability. You have to go through the process of accountability. People should be held accountable for what they have done and what they are doing to other people. If they are not held accountable, the cycle of violence will get bigger and bigger. We will see that more victims will become perpetrators and we will see that the damage goes beyond the Afghan borders, as we are already seeing.”

I asked her about current moves by the international community and the Government of Afghanistan to reconcile with the Taleban:

“The international community is after a very quick remedy [to exit Afghanistan] and this reconciliation [with the Taleban] is just an excuse for the exit strategy of the troops and that’s it. But then who is paying the price? It’s women and ordinary Afghan people.”

What now for Afghan women?

“The only thing left for Afghan women now is just shouting and screaming more and more that no-one should trade on our rights, No-one should use our rights as a political platform. No-one should stand on our rights for political gain. This is what we Afghan women are shouting for.” – Horia

I asked Horia what people like us can do to stand (and maybe shout) with Afghan women. Here is what she suggested:

  1. Remember that you do have power as a citizen and as a tax payer – you have the right to hold your government accountable.
  2. Ask your government to ensure transparency and accountability on the whole reconciliation process. Ask them how they came to the conclusion that sharing power with the Taleban would be a good solution. Ask them how they can be confident that once the Taleban are back in positions of power we won’t return to the situation we were in the 1990s.
  3. Ask your government about gender analysis of the funds spent in Afghanistan. A question could be put to Parliament through a member of the opposition, for example, asking for a report on what percentage of your government’s spending in Afghanistan is directed to programs that will benefit women and girls.
  4. Remind your government why they engaged in Afghanistan in the first place – many governments claimed to be acting to end the oppression of women and other Afghan citizens. They need reminding of this commitment now.

Horia and many other Afghan activists have inspired me to never give up on the possibility of justice. And they have taught me that each of our actions counts. Remember – it does add up. Your actions can make a difference. We also act because it is important for our own well-being to take action, we act because we cannot do nothing in the face of injustice.

If you want to donate

Christen asked me to update this post with some ideas of good places to make financial donations in support of Afghan women’s rights. There are so many good options, but here are a small selection:

Voice of Women

Women for Afghan Women


MADREAfghan Women’s Survival Fund

CARE International USA

CARE International UK


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3 Responses to "It’s time to stand (and shout) with Afghan women"

  1. Christen says:

    Thanks, Marianne, for keeping us up to date with this. For people who want to give financially, what are, in your opinion, the most effective channels for doing that.

  2. Marianne Elliott says:

    Thanks Christen. Here are some ideas for donating in support of women’s rights in Afghanistan.

    Some of the women’s organisations based in Afghanistan doing great work are:

    Voice of Women :
    Women for Afghan Women:

    There are many others, but these two specifically run women’s shelters so are a great place to start.

    International organisations working on women’s rights include:

    CARE International
    CARE USA –
    CARE UK:


  3. Alex says:

    Thanks for keeping me informed, friend. So much info here. I’ll pass it along…

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