Social media campaign promotes women’s rights in Afghanistan’s central highlands region

27 Jul 2017

Social media campaign promotes women’s rights in Afghanistan’s central highlands region

BAMYAN - Raising awareness about women’s rights and gender-based violence is the aim of a new UN-backed social media campaign in the country’s central highlands provinces of Bamyan and Daikundi.

Some 30 social media professionals, representing civil society organizations, women’s rights groups and local media outlets, gathered recently at a symposium, organized by the Bamyan regional office of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), to discuss social media strategies to raise awareness about women’s rights.

In the central highlands region of Afghanistan, as in other areas of the country, Afghan women and girls continue to face many challenges, including forced and early marriage, domestic violence – both physical and mental – and other forms of violence.

Violence against women, particularly domestic violence, remains prevalent in Bamyan, according to findings from Afghanistan’s Independent Human Rights Commission.

Speaking at the event, Sughra Atayee, head of the Afghan Women’s Network in Bamyan, said that lack of awareness about the county’s laws and women’s rights are the major causes of gender-based violence. Ignorance, she said, can be effectively addressed through social media.

“Violence against women at home is an epidemic in Afghan society, and has paralyzed our society by immobilizing half of the country in the name of tradition,” said Ms Attayee. “We can help change the behaviour of men by sending one simple message: do not harm women in your family.”

Also speaking at the event was Jawad Sadey, a civil society activist who outlined how increased citizen reporting on cases of violence against women can help bring perpetrators to justice and build confidence among women about their rights and the rule of law structures set up to protect those rights.

“In today’s world, anyone with a smart phone and internet connection can be a reporter and highlight abuses against women,” Mr Sadey explained during a presentation on citizen journalism. “We need to generate more discussion about these critical issues on social media.”

At the end of the symposium, participants not only launched the women’s rights campaign but also agreed to meet regularly and design additional programmes to raise awareness about ending gender-based violence.

According to UN reporting, most of the cases of violence against women go unreported because of fear of reprisal from family members. These unreported cases of violence are more numerous in remote areas, where access to formal justice mechanisms is reduced.

UNAMA is mandated to support the Afghan Government and the people of Afghanistan as a political mission that provides 'good offices' among other key services. 'Good offices' are diplomatic steps that the UN takes publicly and in private, drawing on its independence, impartiality and integrity, to prevent international disputes from arising, escalating or spreading.

UNAMA also promotes coherent development support by the international community; assists the process of peace and reconciliation; monitors and promotes human rights and the protection of civilians in armed conflict; promotes good governance; and encourages regional cooperation.