Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Sunday, August 20th, 2017

The Little Heroine

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The Little Heroine

A woman dressed in a simple yellow dress was gazing out the window. The twinkling stars filled her eyes with a gleam of hope. Perhaps, she was waiting for the morning to see the rays of the Sun. She stood there, deep in thought. The dark days of war and bloodshed and stark realities of women’s misery flashed through her mind. The pains and sufferings of Afghan women embittered her more than anything else. She was still staring at the starry sky without breathing a word or knowing about the time.
Women’s confinement within the cultural restrictions and patriarchal system put her under mental pressure. She dreamed of going to school and walking out in the open the same as boys. Working in the kitchen or cleaning vegetable – as her small brother sold in the bazaar – twenty-four/seven tired her very much. She wished nothing could hamper her progress.
In fact, there are many social and cultural barriers in Afghanistan that curtail women’s freedoms and a number of girls, mainly in tribal belts, take the desire of going to school to the grave with them. Women are deemed an inferior creature and treated as a pariah in some Taliban-dominated areas, where traditional customs hold strong sway. The radical interpretation of religious texts and parochial mindsets are the hotbed of restrictive traditions and violent practices imposed on Afghan women. After all, three decades of war took their toll on women and paved the grounds for violence against them. In a nutshell, domestic violence and social discriminations against Afghan women are deeply embedded in our culture and they are practiced widely despite the downfall of the Taliban’s regime.
She longed to breathe a sigh of relief and break the chains of slavery from her feet. She wished not to be discriminated on the basis of her sex anymore. The pains and sufferings of Afghan women kept her engrossed. Streams of tear must have rolled down her cheeks, don’t you think so?
I have no idea but it was the story of 18-year-old girl Shakila, who pictured her life, and I watched the pictures in the art therapy in a seminar. In the second picture, the woman moved to the door with a sense of hope to change her destiny – it was morning and rays of the Sun revealed the fact that ‘every cloud has a silver lining’. In her dream picture, which was about freedom, a teenage boy and girl were sitting in the open pointing to the moon, which is believed to reflect the freedom of choosing life-partner. Ill-fatedly, a number of girls are forced to get married with the men of their parents’ choice, in our society, and live their whole life under the same roof. Shakila wished no one could channel her emotions under duress. In the next picture, a school was on fire and two school girls were shedding bitter tears about the incident. This picture jogged the memory of the Taliban’s regime when the girls’ schools were burnt down and corrosive acid was sprayed on the faces of school girls.
Although the painter intended to state the story of her own life through art therapy, but her paintings unfolded the actual story of Afghan women. In spite of democratic discourse in the post-Taliban Afghanistan and approving a constitution based on democracy, Afghan women suffer in one way or another. Irrational traditions prevail in many parts of the country and women are deprived of their basic rights. In other words, they are highly vulnerable to social, cultural and political challenges. The nascent democracy failed to alleviate their anguish or heal their bleeding wound, which was the product of three decades of war and profound influence of traditional mindsets.
Constitutionally, men and women are entitled equally and the government is supposed to protect their rights and liberty regardless of their gender. However, the government has not done enough to empower women or protect their rights based on the Constitution. Therefore, domestic and social violence against Afghan women lingers up to now. Being left at the mercy of discrimination and violence, Afghan women will hardly show tendency towards social, cultural and political activities and their role will be reduced, to a great extent, in such arenas.
It is an unmistakable fact that cultural norms surpass law in Afghanistan and a large number of people practice upon their local culture without knowing a single fact about law. For instance, there are still tribal councils in villages that issue decree about the locals, especially about the women’s issues, in the realm of their influence without referring to courts. The desert courts, run by tribal elders, reveal the same fact. On the other hand, there is a sense of mistrust between state and nation. Since a large number of Afghan women are illiterate, they are unable to take their case to the court and there is hardly anyone to advocate their rights. Moreover, woman cannot dare confide in a police. Referring her case to the court, a woman was called “prostitute” by a police.   
Shakila plays her role through reflecting the facts about Afghan women via paintings and I call her the little heroine. There is no shoulder for Afghan women to cry on and they will have to raise their voice against the status quo and play their role for the betterment of their own future. It is hoped that the rights and dignity of Afghan women be held in high esteem across the country.

Hujjattullah Zia is the permanent writer of the Daily Outlook Afghanistan. He can be reached at zia_hujjat@yahoo.com

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