The government of Afghanistan wants to take control of shelters for abused women, accusing the organizations currently running them of corruption and misuse of funds. The Afghan Women’s Network, a coalition of human rights groups, has strongly denied these allegations. Pressure from the international community may convince the Afghan government to change its mind.
The United States has expressed concern over the plan. “While we recognize that the government needs to monitor shelters, it is important that civil society be allowed to operate these facilities independently,” read a statement by the US State Department.
Activists in Afghanistan have protested the move as well, saying state-run shelters could put women’s lives at greater risk. Sima Samar, chair of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission, has demanded that women be included in the decision-making process in Afghanistan. “Peace cannot happen without respect for human rights and of course participation of women as half the population. We need to recognize women’s existence and include them in all the policies,” said Samar.
“People are not educated,” said Huma Safi, program director at Women for Afghan Women, which runs several shelters. “If women and men knew their rights in Islam and Afghan civil law, then we wouldn’t have violence.”
This controversy demonstrates the powerful impact that Barakat’s Teacher Training Workshops for Human Rights can have on Afghans. Educating teachers about human rights, and in particular the rights of women, is the most effective means of spreading knowledge to the community and the next generation of voters in Afghanistan.
About 180 teachers attended nine Barakat workshops this school year, including 85 women. Afghanistan Country Director Aaq Mohammad said, “All the participants expressed that they have learned that human rights are really urgent for society.” As more people in Afghanistan become educated about women’s rights, the country will be able to make progress towards greater gender equality.