Politics: Struggling to Speak
Since the fall of the Taliban, a few women have reappeared
on Afghanistan's political stage, urged on by the United States,
international donors and President Hamid Karzai. Women were
vocal participants in the country's first post-Taliban loya
jirga, or "grand council," despite reports of harassment
and intimidation, and 12.5 percent of the delegates were women.
Out of 30 cabinet ministers in the interim government, two --
the ministers of women's affairs and public health -- are women.
Some women involved in reconstruction complain that the female
ministers lack real power within the government and that the
government itself lacks real power outside of Kabul.
A recent conference in Kandahar, organized by Afghans for Civil
Society and other nongovernmental groups, brought together women
from a wide range of backgrounds, including educated professionals,
illiterate women, Afghan Americans, one of Kandahar's two female
police officers and several prisoners from a nearby women's
prison. The women presented President Karzai with a draft of
an "Afghan women's bill of rights." According to Masuda Sultan,
program director of Women for Afghan Women, the majority of
conference attendees "wanted their laws to be based on Islamic
principles. But they didn't want the version of Islam that was
put out there by the Taliban." Among the 16 rights they demanded
were mandatory education for girls, freedom of speech, the criminalization
of sexual harassment and domestic violence, equal representation
in the loya jirga and the parliament, and the right to marry
and divorce according to Islamic law.
Photo courtesy Sarah Chayes
Many women fear that even if ratified at the constitutional
loya jirga in December 2003, the rights won't be protected.
One woman told Afghans for Civil Society that "you could write
five constitutions, [but] so long as men have guns on their
shoulders, ... it won't do anything."
POLITICS: Struggling to Speak
SECURITY: Fear and Violence
HEALTH: A Risky Place to Be Female
EDUCATION: Learning for Change
back to top