117th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment (Hawaii)
Story by 1st Lt. Veronica Aguila
FORWARD OPERATING BASE SPIN BOLDAK, Afghanistan (Dec. 13, 2012) – As organizations and advocates across the world gathered and hosted events to recognize the official 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence Campaign, women in the rural district of Spin Boldak learned of the movement during a rare women’s gathering at the Spin Boldak District Center in Kandahar province, Dec. 7.An Afghan girl waits inside the gathering area of a women's meeting at the Spin Boldak District Center, Kandahar province, Afghanistan, Dec. 7, 2012. The meeting, led by female Afghan leaders from the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, non-government organizations and other local professional women, was held in conjunction with the international 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence Campaign which runs from Nov. 25 to Dec. 10. Women discussed topics such women's rights, education, access to medical care and hygiene.
Female Afghan leaders from Kandahar province representing the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, the non-government organization Women’s Economic Empowerment Office and professional local women met with approximately 40 female villagers to spread the news of the campaign and discuss topics of importance in the area.
“We are all like you,” said Mahmoona Tarek, a representative from WEEO. “We have husbands, kids, family, and we take care of them. The only difference is we get to go outside and talk with people and share our problems.”
Women’s gatherings in the district are still very rare, as most women do not travel outside their homes or villages.
“We all have rights,” she said. “Females and males have the same rights, and men are not supposed to beat you up.”
Tarek spoke to the women as she passed out purple ribbons for attendees to wear throughout the campaign as well as information cards highlighting key campaign facts.
The 16 Days campaign in Afghanistan addresses issues such as the fact that violence against women is against the law, informing women of their rights and how to defend them, and steps to take if their rights are violated.
In addition to the campaign, leaders spoke about vaccinations, medical care, hygiene and personal care, as well as emphasized the importance of education for both girls and boys, going to college, and the opportunities created by continuing education and developing new skills.
The invitation by district leaders to female leaders and villagers to gather at the district center was an initial step toward promoting women’s rights as many women see the district center as a place of business for men only.
“A lot of females did not come, so go home and share this information with your family and friends,” said Dr. Zubidah, a local women’s doctor and guest speaker. “Each person can educate 50 others.”
Zubidah let the women know leaders and International Security Assistance Forces representatives are there to help them.
“If you have problems, like somebody is bothering you, you can share it with us and the director of Women’s Affairs and we can try to help you,” she said.
Roquia Achekzai, the Kandahar province Director of Women’s Affairs, and Peri Jachmi, a women’s rights representative also spoke during the meeting.
ISAF forces from Civil Affairs Team 613 of the 426th Civil Affairs Battalion, the Female Engagement Team of 2nd Battalion, 23rd Infantry Regiment, the Rule of Law Field Force-Afghanistan, and the 502nd Military Intelligence Battalion helped facilitate the event to bring the female leaders and villagers together in a safe environment.
(Cover Photo) U.S. Navy Lt. Darren Myers, an officer with the Rule of Law Field Force-Afghanistan, carries humanitarian assistance to distribute to villagers attending a women's meeting at the Spin Boldak District Center, Kandahar province, Afghanistan, Dec. 7, 2012. The meeting, led by female Afghan leaders from the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, non-government organizations and other local professional women, was held in conjunction with the international 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence Campaign which runs from Nov. 25 to Dec. 10. Women discussed topics such women's rights, education, access to medical care and hygiene.