Every day, Afghan people are confronted by war, government instability, and terrorism which have pervaded this nation for decades. These volatile factors have impacted women directly. Women are the targets of violence and the ones left to rebuild communities and families during and after conflict. Afghanistan is a deeply patriarchal society in which women are denied basic rights such as those to education. Despite these barriers, Afghan women are the champions holding together their families and communities. Their voices must be heard, and their rights assured.
Hakima is a 39 year-old Afghan woman. “For all of my life, there has been fighting in Afghanistan.” Hakima can never remember a time in her life when there has been peace and stability in Afghanistan. When she was three years old, she tells us, “People were being killed all over the place. There was no one to ask ‘who are you killing? Why are you killing?’’ This brutal and senseless violence continued into her teenage years.
“One day I was sitting at home; it was around eight o’clock in the morning and six armed militia men entered my house. At that time, I was 13 years old. They put a gun to my mother’s head. The militia men tied the hands of my brothers and father and took them away.” Hakima never saw her father and brother again. She and her mother had to learn how to survive in a society that does not value their lives or contributions equally to that of men. Hakima speaks of this time as one of desperation, “Sometimes, we even ate grass.”
When Hakima discovered our program as an adult, she seized the opportunity to help provide for her family. The literacy and numeracy education helped her contribute to her family’s health and well-being. “When I go outside to buy groceries, I am able to read the signboards,” she says. Now, Hakima is the primary decision-maker her household. “The trainers were teaching us to save the stipends you were giving us. Now, I am responsible for my family,” she explains.
Women for Women International is proud to march for women like Hakima and thousands of other women who have been enrolled in our eight country programs. The safety and opportunities for Hakima and women around the world are at stake, and we believe our voices are powerful instruments to ensure that their lives and contributions are recognized.
Hakima is hopeful for the future of Afghanistan. “I want some changes for the future of Afghanistan’s women. I am asking the international community to come and help women. Come to Afghanistan, support women, educate them, and women will be able to stand on their own two feet.”
With Taliban attacks on the rise, our 106,000 graduates and other women like Hakima are increasingly threatened. Civilian causalities are at a record high in Afghanistan with more than 2,500 people reportedly killed in the first nine months of 2016. With our nation’s long history of engagement in Afghanistan, the incoming administration has a responsibility and opportunity to make a positive difference. It is imperative that we continue to support women in their peace-building efforts. We ask you to join us to amplify the voices of marginalized women around the world. We ask you to help us keep our commitment to women like Hakima in Afghanistan to provide opportunities for women to stand on their own two feet. We march to ensure that no woman is forgotten. Join us and let your voice be heard.
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