AT-KABUL: Discussing the challenges faced by women in the southern region of the country, a group of women singled out education as a priority need.
In an open forum with the Kandahar regional office of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), a group of women gathered to discuss and exchange ideas on how to overcome the many challenges they face as Afghan women.
“We need peace, security, economic opportunities and strong government, but most of all, we need education” said Mariam Durani, getting many nods around the room. “Women have many of the same needs as men,” added Durani, a seasoned women’s right activist in the region.
Education is critical, echoed several young women, students at the University of Kandahar. They observed that Kandahar city had many institutions with the potential to provide education to women, but that few are doing so. The challenge, the women agreed, lies in changing broadly held social attitudes.
“The situation is much worse in rural areas,’ said Dr. Aziza, a member of the Kandahar Provincial Peace Committee. “Girls do get to attend school in Kandahar city, normally up to the age of fourteen or sixteen, but many drop out after that due to family pressure,” she said.
Women in Kandahar – as in many other parts of the country – face many common challenges, notably violence and being excluded from positions of authority. For rural women, the situation is dire; most of them illiterate, poor and heavily dependent on male family members for their daily livelihood. They are susceptible to abuse, violence and less likely to enjoy their fundamental human rights.
The lively debate ended with the participants agreeing that change will require the involvement of learning institutions, the media and other power brokers in the region.
UNAMA has been supporting and working with civil society and media partners in the southern region and other parts of the country in order to provide platforms for communities to have their voices heard and generate constructive discussions around the key issues that most affect them.