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Afghan workwomen pave new pathways

By Ezzatullah Mehrdad-An Afghan woman is taught not to live behind walls of her family’s compound. She is supposed to be a good girl and stay with her mom. Later in her life, she should get married and please her husband. After giving birth to children, she has no other choice, rather than spending her time to look after kids. She has never been encouraged to be an active citizen in a bid to participate in working life.

But in Afghanistan today, a considerable number of women have stepped up to change this rigid and conservative environment. They are not anymore confined to home’s walls in order to follow the traditional pathways. At the moment, they pave new pathways by participating in working life. “According to our figures, a number of female employees have increased during the past decade.” Executive Director at Afghan Women’s Network Hasina Safi said. “Day by day, more women get into media, business, education, health, social, agriculture and many other sectors to work.”  She explained in English.

Fatana Hassanzada, Editor-in-chief of Gellara Magazine which exclusively focuses on women, is one of the Afghan working women who ignored society’s barriers and among the first young working women in Post-Taliban era. She was at grade nine when she became a Radio news presenter to set foot on men-dominated working life. Later, she moved to a TV Station as a host of Talk Show, based on opening debate on women’s affair, including divorce.

“For people, it was far-fetched that I was working, particularly appearing on TV screen.” Ms. Hassanzada recalled it proudly.

Working in the society, which hardly accepts working women, needs sacrifices. “Several times my brother was threatened over my job.” Hassanzada tearfully recalled. “Once at evening of 2011, three men stabbed my younger brother in the street and warned him that I must stop working as a host at TV Station. In the incident, my brother has lost his arm.”

But it couldn’t shake Fatana’s commitment. “Despite my brother’s pain, I have continued my work.” She said.

Many Afghan working women have similar stories. They faced and tackled problems and moved on towards their ambitions. They shattered stereotypes and haven’t let society dash their dreams to work.  “A women herself is the second name of courage.”Ms. Safi said. “They go forward and follow their dreams. They continuously practice and work in order to become stronger.”

Fortunately, Afghan women’s strengths to work have paid off. Among many positive impacts of working on their lives, independency is the most significant one. “I am being able to be lived comfortably,” Fatana proudly stated. “I take care of myself. Don’t need anyone else to look after me as compared to traditional women who were used to be feed by men.” For single women like Fatana work make them able to chose their own choices, and work for women like Zahra Yagana, who has two teenagers and divorced from his drug-addicted husband, saves families from poverty.

Ms.Yagana, one of few alone mothers in Afghanistan, has been breadwinner of her family since she figured out her husband who was drug-addicted at age of 17-year old in Iran. She started to work; waved handkerchief for a while, then moved to a brick industry at the time when she was pregnant as well. The situation got better for her when she moved to her homeland, southern-east City of Herat where she could find a job at an Internet club that provided internet service for the common people. Since then, She has been working with different NGOs despite she had low academic prolife which was only Diploma of High School. But her courage and braveness led her to be a successful runner of her family.

However, successful women like Fatana Hassanzada,who has founded Gellara Magazine at age 23, and Zahra Yagana present models for younger generation to participate in society. “Zahra Yagana is my hero.” Freshta Bakhtiari, 17, a senior high school student, told me. She is inspired by Zahra Yagan’s story. “I want to be a brave woman, someone like Zahra Yagana. Despite she had big obstacles, she survived.  Like someone who never stop working on and stand up by herself throughout her life-time.” Freshta said, adding a smile of courage.

But Afghan working women know better this that it’s only the beginning of a long way to walk. Encouraging more Afghan women for participating in working life is away to pave concretely the pathway for those women whose big dream is having a job.

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