Women’s condition improving in Paktya
8 March 2010 - A tremendous improvement in women’s social, economic and political life has been noted in Paktya over the past ten years.
This was learned by the South-East Region offices of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan which recently met with a women’s non-government organization to discuss the general condition of women in the region.
“Comparing 2001 to 2010, there has been tremendous improvement in women’s social, economic and political life. During the Taliban regime, women were not able to participate in public meetings, or even leave their houses when they wished. Today, 50 per cent of women are enjoying their rights in Paktya,” said Mahira Ahmadzai, head of Afghan Women Education Centre (AWEC).
Ms Ahmadzai added that “although constraints still exist at the social, cultural, economic and security levels, girls’ access to education has, for instance, greatly improved. Besides, approximately 30 per cent of literate women are currently already working with the government or with NGOs.”
“Islam entitles all kinds of Human Rights to women, but our social values and traditions challenge our rights,” lamented Ms Ahmadzai.
This year, about 24,800 female students read in 35 girls’ schools; and 18 female students who have passed twelfth grade participated in the entry test for higher education in Paktya.
AWEC has established 18-month-long literacy trainings, as well as Quran learning centres for adult women in different districts of Paktya province; plus a two-year accelerated course with 10.000 students participating, 6,000 of them women.
Still another activity conducted by AWEC was a two-and-a-half-year capacity-building training covering all of Paktya which was attended by more than 3,500 male and female teachers.
In 2001, the health sector only had two female medical doctors and one midwife in all Paktya. Today, each district has a clinic, plus two hospitals in Zurmat and Chamkani districts, making it much easier for women to access to health facilities.
Nursing and midwife trainings in the provincial capital and in the districts have had a significant impact in reducing the maternal mortality rate in the province. Also, a number of outreach campaigns on vaccination and women-related issues have had an impact as well on the overall situation of women in Paktya.
“Economically, women are not self-sufficient in Paktya. Women are poor because Paktya is poor,” noted Ms Ahmadzai, adding that a number of vocational and self-sufficiency trainings have been organized in different districts by AWEC in an attempt to address this problem.
Still, women in Paktya are enjoying all kinds of political rights. Women are able to vote, to nominate themselves to several political offices, and launch political campaigns without fear.
In the 2009 presidential and Provincial Council elections, 45 per cent of women registered to vote. Today, women are part of the Wolesi Jirga and Provincial Council; and they arrange meetings on women’s issues, and participate in public gatherings, workshops and seminars.
AWEC has organized courses for women on their rights and duties, as well as on the peaceful settlement of family and social disputes. Further, women’s councils have been established in all Paktya districts, where women can share their experiences and discuss problems and attempt to resolve them.
“Though we see significant improvements today in women’s life in Paktya, the province is still considered one of most conservative in Afghanistan mainly due to the security situation, low literacy rate, strong customs and traditions, lack of influence by the government and the fact that women don’t know their rights. If all these problems would be solved, women’s life would definitely greatly improve,” said Ms Ahmadzai.
By Dilawar Khan Dilawar, UNAMA