Male feminists fight for women’s rights in Afghanistan
Summary from Reuters, December 23, 2011
“Part of the problem in Afghanistan is that most women think like men.”
Speaking over a cup of tea is Kabul student and male feminist Fedous Samim.
“I don’t have a sister, but I’m sure if I did, and she tried to go outside the house, my mother would be asking where she was going, what she was doing, why she was going out,” he said.
Samim is part of the male advocacy wing of activist group YoungWomen4Change, and it is feminists like him who are seen as crucial in gaining the ears of Mullahs and community leaders.
His goal is to be able to effect change so that women can attend Afghan markets without getting sexually harassed.
The fact that his goal is relatively modest demonstrates how much work there is to be done to bring about societal change in Afghanistan.
Ahmad Nader Nadery, Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) commissioner, said opening doors for female campaigners is one of the most important things he does.
“Once we open the door to the mullahs, we engage them in discussion, we break the ice,” he says. “Then our female trainers come and they also speak. But we start first.”
Nadery says powerful men often fail to take into account the impact of their decisions on women’s lives, especially when it comes to forced marriages.
“Families are very closed,” Nadery said. “Once a woman enters another family, her story will never get out. Most of those elders, those decision makers, don’t know the suffering she goes through.”
Samim says fighting for women’s rights is not only compatible with his religion and nationality, but part of it.
“I believe in order for me to be a good Afghan or a good Muslim, I must be a good human and respect everyone’s rights,” he says.