SorayaTarziEditor’s note: This AWWP essay was inspired by the upcoming 2014 “Imagining Equality” digital storytelling project led by the International Museum of Women / Global Fund for Women.

The word “woman” has lost meaning and value among Afghans. She who has been given the highest position by God has no value in Afghan society. Why? This is a question that has been answered from different perspectives, but it remains unanswered.

Let’s ask ourselves: Is it men to be blamed for violating the equality of our rights? Let’s trace violence back to its starting point: In a typical religious Afghan family, violence begins with one woman against another woman. The process starts among women: a mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law or when polygamist wives fight against each other. Then a man gets involved to finish the argument, and the result is often the life of a woman.

Every case of violence against women in Afghanistan has been initiated by a woman, although men have their roles in this process. Why is it happening? Is it lack of education? Jealousy? Tradition? Who should women ask for equal rights when women themselves are violating another woman’s rights?

Even if Islam gives permission for a man to marry four times, isn’t it a woman’s choice to say “No”? Are we allowing men to rule over us and beat us if we don’t obey them? Yes, of course we are.

Many women have marked their names in history for bravery—Afghan women poets, warriors or humanists, like Goharshad Begum, Soraya, and Geshsb. Afghan culture today creates obstacles for us, but when one of us stands up and shows that we can mark history again, we see a remarkable change in the perspective of our counterparts and society as a whole. We should not sit back and wait for our rights.

First, women need to understand other women, respect one another’s rights, and then stand together to bring change. To be united we must stop and think about whether we are a source of violence against ourselves.

If we want to change the way women are treated, we have to change our behavior towards one another. No one is going to do anything for women until then. Women must find our values within and then make society respect and accept our values and us.

By Marzia N.

Photo: Queen Soroya Tarzi of Afghanistan, who said in 1926: “It (Independence) belongs to all of us and that is why we celebrate it. Do you think, however, that our nation from the outset needs only men to serve it? Women should also take their part as women did in the early years of our nation and Islam. From their examples we must learn that we must all contribute toward the development of our nation and that this cannot be done without being equipped with knowledge. So we should all attempt to acquire as much knowledge as possible, in order that we may render our services to society in the manner of the women of early Islam.