Time for the Magic Word: Change


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 wordChange

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.

By Gullafroz

Photo from the Washington Post


  1. Elizabeth Titus says:

    Thank you, Gullafroz, for this perspective, coming from an Afghan woman fighting for change in her own country. I am a host to a young Afghan woman studying in the US. When she told me that an Afghan man she knew slightly had just been assigned to a major network news bureau in NYC, where I live, I told her to call him and ask him to come by for tea. She was stunned. She explained that she could never call a man or invite a man to go out. When I said ok, I will invite him, and include you, she said no, this would not work! And she has been in the US studying for three years. I am learning, slowly, how ingrained these old attitudes are.
    Thank you,

  2. Gullafroz, what an important essay you have written. There are so many barriers to women’s advancement in Afghanistan, yet you are so strong and courageous about overcoming them. And you are so thoughtful in your analysis. It is women like you, hopefully along with some compassionate men, who will bring about change.

  3. Dear Gullafroz: This is an exceptional essay. You are communicating so clearly here, showing us the very real communication problems that hamper women’s career advancement. To put it bluntly: this stuff matters. And it would be easy for researchers and commentators not to even know or notice any of this while wringing hands, trying to solve the “woman problem” in Afghanistan. Brava, Gullafroz. Please, please keep up this excellent work.


  4. Keya Mitra says:

    Dear Gullafroz,

    What an inspiring and amazing piece you have written here. I feel extraordinarily lucky to have read and worked with you on it. You have shared such powerful and important insights about women in the workplace and the obstacles that so many women place. Your last paragraph inspires and motivates your readers to impact social change. Beautiful work! I cannot wait to read more of your work.


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