There is a robust relationship between the strength of democracy, gender equality, and security. This relationship is implicit in the National Unity Government (NUG) efforts to strengthen the rights of Afghanistan’s women. Since the ousting of the Taliban in 2001, and the adoption of the Afghan constitution in 2004, many gains have been made in public attitudes toward women’s role in politics and leadership. More than 78,000 women have been appointed to government positions since 2001, and over 8,000 women currently hold government offices. However, many areas of progress for women have stagnated. The reality today is that Afghanistan continues to be one of the most dangerous countries in the world for women.
Sharbat Gula’s piercing green eyes made her an instant icon. Orphaned at age six during the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, she had trekked by foot to Pakistan with her siblings and grandmother. Photographer Steve McCurry’s picture of her made her the unwitting posterchild for the plight of thousands of Afghan refugees streaming into Pakistan. In her homeland she became known as the “Afghan Mona Lisa.” Now she has become a symbol of a return to Afghanistan that hundreds of thousands of refugees are undertaking after decades away.
“We are extremely proud of the wonderful accomplishments of the Afghan All-Girl Robotics Team,” Afghanistan’s ambassador to the United Kingdom, Said T. Jawad, said in a statement on Wednesday. “They are an excellent example for people around the world of what can be accomplished by young Afghans if given the right support and the opportunity to excel in their education.”
Despite being a respected figure in the community due to her years of work—and one failed attempt at running for parliament—it was hard at first for Sofi to convince women to join the gym. “A lot of my initial clients came recommended from doctors in the neighborhood who knew me well,” she says, adding that her oldest son is also a doctor practicing in India. “Eventually, the word spread and now women come to me because they’ve heard about the benefits of going to a gym."
“Women need these places in order to have food in a safe and free place where we can stay happy and enjoy dinner or lunch with our friends,” said Farzana, a resident of the Afghan town. In Afghanistan, a traditionally conservative Muslim nation, security threats have always been the main hindrance for women. The owner of the restaurant also has plans to open a library at the restaurant in order to help women read their favourite books. This will open a new vista for women education and employment in the terrorism-hit country
“I wanted to use the power of sport to show the power of women to people. I know the benefits of sports and people can’t hide their eyes to it. You learn how to be a hard worker and how when you lose, you learn to work harder to be successful the next time. It makes you feel like you can do anything. I couldn’t have learned that without sport.”
Women, some partially veiled to only show their eyes, trickle into the stadium throughout the game. To reach their segregated seating next to the VIP section they must walk past a men’s stand under the gaze of scores of eyes. It is a scene that would have been unthinkable during the Taliban’s repressive and misogynistic regime when women were largely confined to their homes and, when they did venture outside with a male escort, hidden from view under burqas.