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Mahboba Jamshidi: the courage of being a woman in Afghanistan

Monday, 08 February 2016 11:01
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Epos converses with Mahboba Jamshidi

by Emanuela Del Re (EPOS)
EPOS Conversations


Mahboba Jamshidi is the Head of the Department of Women Affairs (DoWa) of Herat, one of the thirty-four provinces of Afghanistan, located in the western part of the country. DoWa is a provincial department of the Ministry of Womens Affairs, and it is responsible for promoting women rights and advancement while also providing direction and building the capacity of government agencies to ensure that policies and planning represent the interests of both men and women within the province. To accomplish this, the Herat DoWA fosters partnerships with government ministries, development organizations and civil society groups.

In the following exclusive interview for EPOS, Ms. Jamshidi discusses the current situation of Afghan women, and she stresses the importance of education programmes and trainings in order to make the society confident with the gender issue. She focuses on the challenges that the Afghan women are facing and have to face in the coming future, and she points out the role of women at the table of negotiation. Ms. Jamshidi also talks about her private life as a woman, a wife and a mother, and she expresses her wishes for her family, for women and for Afghanistan.

Emanuela Del Re, EPOS: Ms. Jamshidi, we are both women and we share the same sensibility on many issues. This is why I would like to discuss with you the condition of women in Afghanistan. I would like to have an overview of the current situation and then we will go more deeply in some details.

Mahboba Jamshidi: In the last thirteen years, the condition of women in Afghanistan has changed a lot: we have had some improvements in many sectors of the society also thanks to the international community which has helped us a lot. Nowadays women are engaged in many social, cultural and political activities, but it is not enough. We, as women, are still having lots of concern about our condition. On one hand, women are aware of the fact that the programmes designed for them have faced many problems during the phase of implementation: for example, money have not been used in a proper way, and most of the funds have been literally wasted. On the other hand, the donors have carried out the projects in a way that has not very useful: just one or two days of training workshops were not as effective and beneficial as they should have been. Women have not benefited too much from this kind of programmes. Even though all the goals achieved in the last thirteen years, the current political situation has made women worried and concerned. The negotiation with the Taliban and the spartition of the political arena with them is a big issue for everybody and especially for women.

Emanuela Del Re, EPOS: Have they been serious political episodes against women, like women attacks?

Mahboba Jamshidi: Violence against women in Afghanistan is very high. We have witnessed several attacks against women, like the amputation of parts of their body. The society is still in the process of reaching democracy, and in the meanwhile this kind of attacks are very diffused, especially in the rural areas. Even the politicians are having difficulties in changing this situation. Three women of Herat Department of Women Affairs have been killed, and they had a position in the government. They were killed by the enemies of the government. Myself, I have received several security threats from Herat anti-government people. I am a member of Herat provincial council, and the enemies, the insurgents have thrown stones into my house. So, I cannot stay at home during the nights for security reasons. I am worried for the risk of being kidnapped: when my children go to school, I am very worried for them. How could I find money for their released in case they were kidnapped? This is a security concern. My children cannot go out and play with other children because of my position in the government. This is very frustrating. For men is much more easier working in the government. Women do not have accurate political relations with the community because of years of segregation.

Emanuela Del Re, EPOS: Why women in Afghanistan are still facing such big problems? Why is their condition so complicated?

Mahboba Jamshidi: If we compare the current situation to that one of ten years, we can easily see a lot of improvements and developments for women. Today women are allowed to be educated and they are going to school, and this was not even imaginable years ago. For example, according to the latest data, in Herat province, the 50% of students are girls. In the whole Afghanistan, the percentage of female students is 30-33%. In some rural villages, we are promoting campaigns of invitation for girls in order to convince them and their parents to go to school, but much more has to be done. Schools for girls are not for all the ages, and this is another gap and concern. The International Community, the main donor in the reconstruction of Afghanistan, should allocate more funds for the building of much more schools.

Emanuela Del Re, EPOS: Women in Afghanistan have few rights. Do men know that women should have rights?

Mahboba Jamshidi: This is the main problem that we, as women, are facing in Afghanistan. We are in need of public awareness programs for the rights of women. But when women become aware of their rights, it is a big problem, because they start to ask for the recognition of their rights and men do not want to give them. So, there is an increasing violence in towns and villages. The awareness programs for women rights are both for women and for men, because everyone, without any distinctions, have to understand that asking for a right does not mean to be killed for that right.

Emanuela Del Re, EPOS: And the mothers: are they teaching their children, boys and girls, the importance of rights in society?

Mahboba Jamshidi: We are facing several problems also in this field, but there are mothers who are litterate and they are letting their children know about their rights

Emanuela Del Re, EPOS: What is the role of women in conflict negotiation in Afghanistan? Can they contribute in changing the society? Can they be negotiators? Should they been more involved?

Mahboba Jamshidi: There are many problems that women have to face when they sit around a table: corruption and relations with the society. Women would like to be involved more in negotiation. They are interested in having an active role in rebuilding the Afghan society. But even women are victims of corruption because, for example, there are women at high level in the government who have been put there not for meritocracy

Emanuela Del Re, EPOS: What is the added value of women involvement in negotiation? What do women bring to the table of negotiation?

Mahboba Jamshidi: Women bring peace and security. In the political negotation, they ask for their own rights and position within the society. Their participation in the government has not to be trumped

Emanuela Del Re, EPOS: What is the special quality of women in politics?

Mahboba Jamshidi: Women are human beings and they want to be accepted as a human being just like men. Women work with more honesty and they are struggling for the future of their children. Women try to be out of all the political complots. For this reason, the presence of women in key governamental position is important

Emanuela Del Re, EPOS: What do you expect for the future?

Mahboba Jamshidi: The general dream of women is security. Women are asking for a more active participation in the political arena, in the povincial councils and in the Parliament. Women do not want to be used just like a symbol: their involvement in the government should not be symbolic but effective.

Emanuela Del Re, EPOS: And the women of the street, what are their dreams?

Mahboba Jamshidi: All the women want to be tranquil and to feel safe in a safe society. Women want to take their own decisions without the permission of men. They want to be independent.


DISCLAIMER: The views expressed in this article are the interviewed’s own and do not necessarily reflect EPOS WorldView’s editorial policy

Last modified on Monday, 08 February 2016 14:28
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