The only legacy left from a three-decade war in Afghanistan is conservative mindsets.
Research shows that communication and social interaction can highly boost opportunities for Afghan women in their career and social network building. But in Afghanistan, these two things—communication and social interaction—are what mostly define attitudes towards women in society. A woman must be very cautious in interacting with co-workers and friends.
Most women in Afghanistan can’t even make eye contact or smile when communicating with their male co-workers.
An Afghan woman can’t have a meeting alone with a man in a room; she must be more concerned about the rumors it will create about her beyond the room. An Afghan woman cannot have business meetings outside her office at any cost. She would no longer be considered a reputable woman.
Women are subject to tremendous types of criticism, which gradually causes discouragement to the women in the workplace.
But what I find strange is that most women care enough about this criticism that they will sabotage their own networking opportunities in spite of knowing that they can never stop criticism. Why worsen your opportunities when you know you can never stop criticism.
I have experienced dozens of criticisms and comments about my dress, way of communicating, and a lot more, and I leave them behind.
For example, my next door neighbors have very bad perspectives about working with international NGOs or with foreigners. Starting with the morning pickup when the driver comes to take me to work, they all just keep staring at me and make comments that I don’t even know of.
Arriving in the office, I can’t make eye contact while talking to my male co-workers. If I do, they feel bad about talking to me.
In some meetings I am the only female. Beyond the office door people can create enough rumors to easily discourage and disappoint a woman.
But I never let these barriers stop my way to success, because after every single disappointment I continue to envision that very prestigious leadership position that I can have in the future if I don’t give up now. The dreams of becoming a leader for my people always lead me to work even harder.
Criticisms aren’t the only barriers that keep women running away of interactions. There are male colleagues who intentionally discriminate, flirt, and disobey women. Women can’t distribute their phone numbers or contact details openly because they can’t trust everyone.
Women will less often serve as board members, directors, key decision makers, and top-level managers. One of the basic reasons is they don’t have strong networks and communications.
What has put me deep in thought for a while is how we can ameliorate people’s perspective toward women’s communications and interactions in their workplace and social life and diminish criticism about their interactions. I believe in the magical six-letter word: Change.
The solution is to enhance a positive perspective toward women’s interaction in this male-dominated society. To be a competent professional, you need to strive to create a strong network. You need to expand your people’s vision about your interactions positively.
The Taliban era is gone, so go on and change the nation’s pro-Taliban thoughts. Prove that your involvement in networks and businesses can have a significant impact on Afghanistan’s development.
Photo from the Washington Post