Afghan women’s rights activist Farida Azizi discussed international strategies of peace advocacy and gender equality regarding the current status of Afghan women on Wednesday night. Azizi, a native Afghan who was initially enrolled in medical school in Afghanistan, was forced to flee her country several times during the Soviet Invasion, the Northern Alliance occupation and finally when the Taliban seized power. Despite living in exile, Azizi took several trips to Afghanistan to assist the economic, social and medical needs of Afghan women, thus beginning her career of peace activism and human rights advocacy.

“Despite suffering two decades of violence, the Afghan women remain crucial to the country’s culture and tradition,” Azizi said. “Throughout history these women have been very involved, working as teachers, doctors, nurses and lawyers. In order to regain this status, support from the international community is very important.”

Throughout the past decade Azizi has demonstrated tremendous commitment to restoring the rights and well being of Afghan women. By implementing peace building programs with the Norwegian Church AID program, helping to found the Cooperation for Peace and Unity network based in Pakistan and advocating women’s rights in various international conferences in Bangladesh, India and the United Kingdom, Azizi has stressed the necessity for support in health services, economic empowerment, education and security.

“With regard to our economy, the middle and third class families are troubled, not being able to afford food or housing. Families, averaging five members, are surviving on salaries of $25 to $35 per month,” Azizi said.

Azizi continued to explain that with the lack of government aid, significant problems exist regarding access to healthcare and education services.

“The schools, which are mostly taught by women, are not in good shape. There are not enough books, chairs, tables. Most problematic is the lack of health education and provision of care,” she said. “In the cities, you can find big hospitals or private doctors. But away in the rural areas, you find nothing.”

Health has been a major focus of Azizi’s advocacy, as she has implemented health education programs that were originally prohibited by the Taliban.

“With these educational programs the women discover their rights and have increased awareness. Previously, many women didn’t even know how to have a baby, to which we responded by providing midwifery training. After implementing this program, a member of the Taliban approached me about the training, which made me very scared, but informed me that the training was needed and that it had improved the health of his wife,” Azizi said.

Despite the economic freeze that took place during the Taliban regime, international support, such as that from surrounding Middle East countries and the United States, has reopened educational and employment opportunities for Afghan women.

“It is important to realize that Afghan women are not just victims, but they are sources for the country’s development. Their equality depends on active protection and support of their rights and education,” she said.

Currently, Azizi is working on revising Afghanistan’s 1964 constitution as a senior advisor for the Afghan’s women’s program with Vital Voices Global Partnership. Through the Global Partnership Azizi implements bills in favor of a democratic government, peace building and economic strategies. In striving to close the gap of gender inequality in Afghanistan, she is optimistic that within the next 10 years there will be many positive changes.

“With the support of neighboring countries and the international community, I have hope that there will be peace in Afghanistan,” Azizi concluded.

Azizi, who recently introduced Mrs. Laura Bush and President Bush at the bill-signing event for Afghan women and children, was invited to speak at Georgetown by Foreign Service sorority Delta Phi Epsilon, who also sponsored Ambassador John McDonald’s lecture last week.

Have a reaction to this article? Write a letter to the editor.

Comments are closed.