Zarin Hamid

Zarin Hamid (Afghan Women’s Network – AWN): Zarin was born in Kabul, Afghanistan. Her family then moved to New Delhi, with many other Afghan refugees, before moving to New Jersey. Zarin earned a degree in Political Science and Middle Eastern Studies at Douglass College, Rutgers University, where she worked as a program assistant at the Center for Middle Eastern Studies. Zarin also worked with the Campaign for Innocent Victims in Conflict (CIVIC), helped in community voter registration, and volunteered at soup kitchens in New Brunswick, NJ and Asbury Park, NJ. Prior to taking up her AP fellowship, Zarin completed her Master's degree at the School of International Service, American University.

choice and voice on her own terms

21 Jul

A variety of women’s groups, and a few UN bodies present in Afghanistan have focused on the impact UN resolution 1325 has made in the country. As I’ve said, I’m working on compiling a report on this for AWN. Despite the ineptness of the government, and the nonchalance of the police, the situation for Afghans has become better in the past few years. Women are faring better in many ways, but also continue to face immense obstacles. While the experience of urban and rural women are certainly different, some issues remain the same across the board. I keep asking what have women really gained despite at least constitutionally being guaranteed the human rights and protections of citizenship. In real terms, there are a few programs and plans part of the Afghan government’s work. These include the National Action Plan for the Women of Afghanistan (NAPWA), specific gender components of the Afghan National Development Strategy (ANDS), as well as pro women laws like the Elimination of Violence against Afghan Women.

While abuse is universal and exists in every part of the world, the prevalence and lack of accountability attached to it vary. In Afghanistan, women and girls are guaranteed protections and rights by the Constitution, but the ignorance and nonchalance of government and police who should serve to protect effectively silence and curtail women.

To make things worse, where concerned parties should focus on is unclear or twisted with other intentions. For many outside of Afghanistan and a number within, helping Afghan women (or Pakistani, or Iranian, or Arab) consists things like ‘liberation’ and ‘lifting the veil’. This is old news to most of us. And while the United States decided to invade Afghanistan in part claiming to ‘free’ women from oppression, including being free from the now popular blue burqa, here, women don’t speak in these terms. It is not that they don’t speak of their oppression or unaware and this is why something like a scarf is not the hot topic of town. It is because they are aware of their problems that the banality of so-called feminists abroad concerned for Afghan women and their burqas that is ludicrous.

After a recent conversation with a woman I met at a meeting, I tell myself it is not freedom-from, but freedom-to that women activists are seeking in Afghanistan. The freedom –from is focused on warding off and going away from a certain sort of reality. It is focused on doing away with any and every outward aspect of society that is negative toward women. While this is good in many ways, especially on the surface, freedom to not only places the struggle of women in positive terms, it also engineers a message that says Afghan women are not against their own society or country, but are in fact for its improvement. Women’s inclusion in social and political life of the country is couched by many women here in this way. Freedom-to does not negate the fact that most women who seek changes for themselves and their sisters, mothers and daughters, (and for their society as a whole) do not at the same time cast off their religion, culture, or identity as Afghan women. They hold these aspects as important and valuable. Instead, here what freedom-to exhibits is the desire to commit a better way of life for women while clearly still a part of the society. In other words, the majority of women here are not looking to be free from wearing a headscarf. The woman’s struggle here is more for choice and voice on her own terms.

Posted By Zarin Hamid

Posted Jul 21st, 2010

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