An Essay by Sharifa Ahmadi
Afghanistan has struggled and suffered through four decades of war — from within and from without. Everyone has been gravely impacted: men, soldiers, women and children have been killed, kidnapped, and consumed by the fires of these terrors. But women and children have been the most deeply affected.
In most of the 34 provinces in Afghanistan, women and girls aren’t allowed to have primary education or go to school or work somewhere. It’s like women are forced to live in cages.
After the fall of the Taliban regime in 2001, it seemed that things might get better for Afghans. Families in provinces like Bamyan, Kabul, Herat, and Balkh started to send their daughters and sons to school and to university. Young people were able to work in offices, hospitals, schools, even police stations. They volunteered as teachers. Women got jobs in places where men were unaccustomed to working with women. These men thought that only men should be able to work and be a high-ranking employee. They treated women employees as slaves, ordering them around the way they ordered their own wives and daughters in home.
Here’s an example, a true story from a woman who was seeking work. The director in charge of hiring told this woman she must do whatever he wants, and even was sexually harassing her in an inappropriate manner. Even as she was applying for the job and few days into her contract.
Thus, women face harassment in the workplace, on the streets, and in their homes. This causes some to quit their jobs. Some women give up on life, killing or burning themselves. There are many cases registered in stakeholders departments of Afghanistan government. According to the Human Rights Commission report from 2018, 85 percent of 1500 Afghan women surveyed experienced harassment. And much of this violence happens at home. In fact, the home is one of the least safe places for women in Afghanistan. There are some very tragic statistics of women burning and cutting themselves, of women being killed and raped. The country is still one of the worst places to be a woman.
As Afghan women, we must talk and write about these problems of violence and harassment. We must work to solve the problem of a lack of education. We must put our hands together to become stronger. To find solutions. We can fight against ignorance with our pens and words so one day we can live and work in the world as men do.
About the Author: Sharifa Ahmadi is from Bamyan, Afghanistan and has worked as a teacher for Jesuit Refugee Services. She recently graduated with her MS in Mathematics from a university in India. She wants to raise her voice through her writing on behalf of women who live in many difficult places.