By Mansoor Faizy-International Women’s Day is annually held on March 8. It is aimed to celebrate achievements of women across nations. In other words the day is commemorated globally to honor women’s activities, achievements and all-out efforts rendering by them in different areas. There are so many different ways to honor this day. Women’s around the world trying to convey their problems to the related officials on this day (March 8). Afghanistan also celebrates this day. Seminars, workshops and awareness talks are organized throughout the country aimed at commemorating this day. But Afghan women should see this day from another angle. They should think that why this day was marked as International Women’s Day. They shall know about its influence and reason behind it, because it’s better late than never.
On March 8, 1857, garment workers in New York City of the United States marched and picketed, demanding improved working condition, a ten hour work-day, and equal rights for women. At that police had halted their march. Interestingly, fifty-one years later, March 8, 1908, their sisters in the needle trades again in New York marched, honoring the 1857 march, demanding the vote, and an end to sweatshops and child labor. Heavy contingent of police was present on that occasion too.
In 1910 at the Second International, a worldwide socialist party congress, German socialist Clara Zetkin proposed that March 8th be proclaimed International Women’s Day, to commemorate the US demonstrations and honor working women over the globe.
The history behind this day reminds me of school times when I was a student of class sixth. Once I told my father that if the school principal supports me and shows favor I would pass the exams. In response my father told me, “Study hard. Put all your energies and efforts to pursue education. In that case whether you’re principal’s favorite or not, you will pass the examination.” It was a good lesson to learn. It helped me throughout my career because summary of my father’s advice was that “God helps those who help themselves”.
This indicates that women’s don’t need any principal to make a remarkable difference to their lives; rather it depends on their own efforts. It is better for the already troubled Afghan women to pin no hope on any principal, in this case the ruler, because they have power to turn themselves as a principal. Women are half of the world’s population and in Afghanistan they are at the same ratio. Why shall they look towards others to resolve their problems? Currently, they are going through tough time. Domestic violence against women in the country is like an open book to us all. Forced marriages, honor killings and other acts of violence are very common.
The Taliban also share part in this game of violence against women as they lashed girls without trial. They were given no opportunity to defend themselves. When the Taliban came to power, the first thing they did was to stop women from going to schools and workplaces. Religious scholars, not all but many, should also be criticized because they never told the militants or anti-education elements that Holy Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) said, “Whoever goes out seeking knowledge, then he is in Allah’s cause until he returns.” Searching for knowledge is a duty upon every Muslim man and woman, even if one has visit far off lands.
The focus is to make clear that Afghan women are very much powerful and if this power was used properly all their problems would be resolved—at least the most challenging. They are not weak. They are very powerful than their male fellows. What they need is to forge unity among their ranks. They don’t have to look toward any principal to come to the fore and help them, because in a real sense they’re a principle of this nation. It would not be fair to turn a blind eye over their achievements and significant contributions for development of Afghanistan in different areas. However, they shall do more because their efforts are not significant in terms of rights protection. For instance, they can put a full stop to violence against them forever.
If the women wait patiently, no one is going to help them. Afghan women are strong and they don’t give up when they come across challenges.
The time is ripe for them to change their mindset and come with a new strategy of defending their rights. They should change their approach tactic by keeping their friends close and their enemies closer. They have suffered a lot during three decades of war. They can bring all their sufferings to a logical end by realizing their real power. It should be used in a proper manner. As a first step they should learn from the garment workers who laid foundation of the International Women’s Day. Mere conferences and seminars will not help because rights protection is a continued process.