Though everyday there are different news items related to insecurity and problems in Afghanistan, every now and then there are certain pieces of news that are encouraging and highlight great achievements by Afghans. In one of such pieces of news, it was highlighted that Habiba Sarabi, the deputy chairperson of the Afghan High Peace Council (HPC), was awarded N-Peace Award under the Untold Story Category on Sunday, February 12 in Thailand. N-Peace awards are given by N-Peace Network, which is a network of peace advocates of different countries in Asia (Pakistan, Nepal, Indonesia, Afghanistan, Myanmar and the Philippines) that advance women’s and peace issues. It is coordinated by UNDP’s Bangkok Regional Hub and supports women's leadership in conflict prevention, recovery, peace-building and more.
Sarabi was honored for her unrelenting work to bring peace to Afghanistan, while ensuring attention is paid to gender equality and women’s empowerment. Her work spans over more than two decades and includes teaching girls in refugee camps while in exile in the 1990s in Pakistan, governor of Bamyan, cabinet minister, and currently as a deputy chair of the HPC where she works to include women in the peace process. She was also the first woman to become a governor in Afghanistan and served in the position in Bamiyan from 2005 to 2013.
The achievement is really huge, considering the status of women in the Afghanistan and the attitude of society towards them. Nonetheless, it remains a fact that Afghanistan, like any other country, has many talented women who can play their role in earning a reputable name for the country and introducing the necessary positive changes within the society.
Unfortunately, Afghan society has a history of discriminatory behavior towards women and it can be easily observed that even now the incidents violating women rights have not been stopped though there have been many claims of developments. In fact the changes are prevalent only on the exterior while from within the Afghan society still lacks the modernity and development it needs in order to reach to a respectable position.
The Afghan social structure has been vehemently dominated by religious extremism and tribal nepotism and women have been intensely influenced as they belong to the weaker strata of the society. Most of the self-designed religious doctrines and tribal norms are against the women and discriminate their basic rights. Unfortunately, these norms and doctrines have even gone to the extent of violence and have tortured women physically – mostly in the public.
In accordance to parochial tribal norms and extremist religious beliefs women are not meant to get education. Their duties are bound to be inside the boundaries of their houses, which they do not have the right to leave in any condition except after the permission of an authoritative male member. Though there have been some improvements made to counter the traditional beliefs regarding the female education, they are mostly limited to only a couple of large cities, while most of the small cities and villages do not have proper or any arrangement for the education of women. Moreover, the efforts that are carried out in some way or the other are not without opposition - most of the times the opposition comes in the form of ruthless violence. There have been many incidents when the lunatic culprits have thrown acids on the faces of the girls who go to schools. Parents, who are interested to let their girls get education, have to think thousand times because for them the lives of their children are dearer than their education.
It is unfortunate to note that Afghan authorities and many important personalities themselves have favored the recommendations and suggestions to limit the participation of women in social and political lives. As most of these authorities are themselves nourished in an extremist patriarchal society and do not have much consideration regarding the role and empowerment of women and consider it against their tribal values that they come out of their houses, they would never follow a movement to save women from violence and make them achieve their due place in Afghan society.
It is really important that government must not support the discriminatory ideas against the women. Afghan society is a society that has been dominated by male chauvinism and its history has been filled with various incidents of ruthless violence against women. There are different sorts of such incidents every now and then in different parts of country even in today’s Afghanistan. Government can prove to be a hope for the women. If it itself encourages the intentions that may undermine the rights of women, it would be very difficult to expect the same from common people. Moreover, the international community in this regard can also play an important role. Though it has mentioned on almost all the important occasions that human rights, especially women rights, have to be given top priority by the Afghan government if it wills to have the support of major countries, it has not been able to make Afghan government pursue a really practical and comprehensive strategy regarding the issue, which is the only solution for preserving the women rights and dignity to a certain extent in Afghan society.If given their due rights, Afghan women have all the potential and prudence to inspire the world with their abilities and prove that they are not inferior to men at all.