Violence is an ordinary part of everyday life in Afghanistan. It starts at a child’s birth, when families and society begin the process of honoring children by gender. In many families the birth of a son is celebrated, while the birth of a daughter is bemoaned. Sons are showered with love, respect, better food and better health care, while the girls will get nothing.
Every Afghan girl has experienced some kind of gender-based violence. My sister’s friend Mariam, like many women, has suffered because she was born a female. When she was born, her father left the family for a month—the first month of her life—because he did not want a daughter. He was mad at his wife over it. This was very difficult for Mariam’s mother who needed help with her newborn infant.
As the years went by, Mariam grew up and started school. She faced many problems because her brothers and father did not want her to go to school—because she was a girl. But Mariam was a very hard worker and she finished school and started attending university. She got a part-time job teaching mathematics. She was earning money for herself and her family, yet her family still tried to prevent her from continuing her university studies. Mariam complained to the local police and finally she was allowed to study mathematics at her university.
Mariam is now married. But the marriage was arranged, a forced marriage. She had been teaching math at a Kabul high school, but now her husband forbids her to teach. He believes women should take care of the house and the family. This is a kind of gender violence.
I believe women deserve equal human rights and we must support women for our abilities beyond the home and family. Women are capable and strong and society needs to be able to see this. It is also important that the government address policies to decrease violence and result in fairness for women. Change for Mariam will only start to happen when Afghan people and the government demand that gender violence stops.
By Fariba H.
Photo: Eric Kanalstein / UNAMA
Fariba — This is a sad but amazing essay that honors your friend Miriam’s strength. I can only imagine what it is like to have to overcome so many obstacles (men) that stood in the way of her education. I hope she will be able to find a way to keep going as her husband forces her to obey his wishes. You are right that this is a form of gender violence and something that needs to be changed. Thank your for writing this. Love and peace, Nancy
I am very happy that I read your writings. It is a sad story to hear about violence against women but what should we do that we can’t ignore ongoing facts.
I agree with your sentence ** Every Afghan girl has experienced some kind of gender-based violence ** I know but we all need to do our parts and decrease it if not in other’s life at least on own lives. Your writing and our fellows writings is the start of a big change.
Thanks for writing Fariba jan.
The story highlights the double standards between girls and boys. The unfair treatment of girls occurs in private and public spheres. There is an indoctrinated belief that women have lesser potential, when in reality, that remains false, so I am glad that Mariam proved the parents wrong and worked in a part time job. I find it outrageous for the dad to flee his family just because the kid was not the gender he wished for or her husband restricting her from working. This made me realize that gender discrimination needs to be taken care of in accordance to violence and the stringent laws placed on women as well the treatment they face in their households. I applaud you Fariba for highlighting the struggles women go through to get equality.