UN Women Provides Internship Program for Women in Afghanistan
Afghanistan is a country where the population largely consists of people under 24 years old, and about 400,000 people are entering the workforce every year. It is hard enough finding a job as a young college graduate, but it’s even more difficult for the women in Afghanistan. Women in Afghanistan who seek education or employment still face backlash from a patriarchal society.

Although 64 percent of Afghans believe women should be allowed to work, many men still feel that women should be forbidden from pursuing an education. Girls who attempt to pursue education face great danger. Schools for girls have been burned down, teachers have been threatened and killed, and girls have been injured walking to and from school. The women who manage to complete their education often have forces working against them, preventing them from getting a job.

In December 2015, U.N. Women developed an internship program to help college-educated women acquire skills and develop a work ethic to better prepare them for the working world in Afghanistan. As of now, 48 women have completed the U.N. Women’s internship program in Afghanistan. The six-month program consists of two months spent training the women in different professional skills, and four months spent interning with an organization in the woman’s chosen field. The women receive a stipend from U.N. Women for the duration of their internship period.

The internship program has helped participants make vital social and professional connections with different programs around the world, some of which have offered these women jobs after completing their internships. The U.N. Women internship opportunity is helping women in Afghanistan look more suitable and appealing to job recruiters, giving them a competitive edge against young men looking for jobs.

As drastic and detrimental as things are for women in Afghanistan, the country is making progress for women and girls in education, political participation and economic roles. The National Unity Government is committed to the empowerment of women, and recognizes that equal opportunity for women is necessary for stabilizing Afghanistan and developing the country in a sustainable way.

There are more women in power than ever before. For example, 27.7 percent of parliament consists of women and three serve as ambassadors as well as the leaders of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission and four ministries. Also, Afghanistan has in place a National Action Plan to implement a resolution for the peace and security of women. These measures of progress show that there have been efforts in promoting and upholding a peaceful society with equal opportunity for women.

Women in Afghanistan continue to be disproportionately affected by poverty, discrimination and exploitation. There is still a substantial amount of resistance and discrimination in the workforce, but Afghanistan is making progress. With the help from U.N. Women, the working and educated women in Afghanistan can be progressive role models and leaders to all other women and girls.

Although Afghanistan has established ambitious goals, these actions are necessary to ensure that progress is not reversed and to preserve the great gains the country has made.

Kayla Mehl

Photo: Flickr

boko haram
Nigeria’s militant Islamic group, Boko Haram, has created havoc in Africa’s most populous country. The militia, whose name translates to “Western education is sin,” has kidnapped over 200 schoolgirls in the village of Chibok and has threatened to sell them as child brides. Their primary objective is to create an Islamic state that would forbid Muslims to abide by or be influenced by Western culture. Thus, schools have served as a common battlefield. Additionally, battles have occurred in churches, police stations and all those opposed to the ideas of the militants. Without a proper education, these girls will continue to suffer the consequences of extreme poverty and related health risks.

Similarly in Afghanistan, the Taliban imposed strict restrictions on women during their rule from the late 1990s to 2001. They banned women from studying in schools, working outside the homes and took away most of their behavioral and personal freedom due to an extreme interpretation of the Koran. Women were pressured into adhering to their traditional roles, being forced to stay at home to take care of the children and the house. The Taliban also was opposed to Western influence, and it banned music, movies, cosmetics and brightly colored clothing, creating laws to punish those who did not wear the proper clothing, such as the burqa, for women.

In both situations, women’s rights have been and still are on the road to being taken away. Boko Haram has been accused of having communications with and training from Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and Islamic Maghreb. This is also true for the Taliban, who have had immense support and imported fighters from Al-Qaeda. Both groups want to see a change in government and have Shari’a law implemented in their respective countries.

In a divided country of Christians and Muslims, Nigeria has faced many problems, despite the abundance of oil and natural resources that exist in the country. The militia mainly blames the modern and secular government for bad governance and underdevelopment. In Afghanistan, the Taliban rose after the invasion of the Soviet Union to bring back stability into the country and instill rule of law in place of corruption. The strict restrictions on women were an effect of Shari’a law.

Without education for women, the countries’ development will be hindered and the population’s health will dramatically decrease. Afghanistan already has one of the lowest Human Development Indexes in the world and suffers from a complete lack of healthcare providers and facilities. Unfortunately, both Afghanistan and Nigeria face severe challenges and a future that does not seem as bright as it could be.

Leeda Jewayni

Sources: CNN, CFR 1, CFR 2
Photo: Flickr

The shaky voice of a female contestant caught the attention of a woman who understands. A judge on the popular TV show, “The Voice of Afghanistan,” turned her chair the moment she heard the melody of a fellow woman’s voice.

Until the Taliban crumbled in 2011, women were not allowed to be shown on TV. Now, Aryana Sayeed is proving people wrong and as a popular female vocalist, she acts as one of the judges for the show. Sayeed stands alone as a symbol for female independence in a country where the culture feels differently. She chooses not to wear a head scarf onscreen; something she receives death threats for. In an interview with CNN, Sayeed remembers, “They said that whoever kills this singer would go to heaven,” and acknowledges how her choices have influenced many Afghan women.

Women of Afghanistan are expected to keep themselves covered in a patriarchal society, but Sayeed sees a different future. By uncovering her hair she forces people to see her and her beauty, and does so as an act of personal freedom. Appearing on national TV without a headscarf brought on a myriad of hateful comments from the Afghan public, mostly men shaming her for exposing herself. Her figure fitting wardrobe angered some, but for others her act of defiance spoke to them.

In the conservative culture of Islamic Afghanistan, Sayeed pushes back, using her music as  a platform. In one of her popular songs, she makes the distinct connection between her womanhood and slavery. In her experience, she is secondary to men solely based on her gender. She fights this, telling AFP, “I want women to have rights, to talk freely, to walk freely, to be able to go shopping when they wish,” without the fear of a man telling her what she should and should not be doing.

Sayeed took steps forward by immediately supporting the female contestant who demonstrated bravery when she sang in front of an audience of men and on national TV. Sayeed hopes for this to become commonplace and accepted as it is in many other countries, with women receiving the same opportunities and respect as men.

 — Elena Lopez

Sources: Lifestyle
Photo: Inquirer