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Afghan women deserve a peaceful future

    International Women’s Day was celebrated across the world on Monday 8th March with events held across Afghanistan that focused on empowering women and girls in all walks of life. People in Kabul and other parts of the country marked the day by donating blood, planting saplings and attending events that called for an end to violence against women.

    Shazia, who lives in Kabul, participated in a Women’s Day gathering, and explains: “Empowering Afghan women enables them to have their say in matters of national concern, including in social development, education and – most important – how to bring peace to our country.”

    Hundreds of women and men attended events in many locations including Jalalabad, Laghman, Kabul, Balkh, Jawzjan, Kapisa, Kandahar, Badakhshan, Bamyan, and Herat, joining millions more around the world marking the day.

    “Women must be able to participate actively in social and development initiatives that affect their live,” says 25 year-old Shakiba from Herat, adding “Men have an important role to play in enabling women to be treated equally in the home, the community, and the workplace.”

    Afghanistan has made significant progress in this area in the past 15 years, during which the government and citizens’ groups have developed measures to advance women’s participation in public life. Progress has been made in ensuring access to education and health care, with many more women now active in civil society initiatives. There remains, however, a lot to be done.

    “We are struggling against forced marriages and gender-based violence in Kandahar through our community-centered activities aimed at making people aware of the impact on women, and how this holds back their development and limits their ability to achieve their full potential.” Say Masooda and Rozina, volunteers from Kandahar.

    “The events today give us the chance to come together not only to celebrate but also to discuss how to ensure that we and other women can contribute to our society by becoming doctors, judges or police officers and play an equal role in our development.”

    Zainab from Nangarhar province explains, “Deep-rooted cultural and social attitudes persist that prevent or limit many women from realizing their full potential. In addition, violence against women in the home and elsewhere is a serious problem that needs to be addressed. Women alone cannot bring about a change in attitudes, but together we can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples. We know that it will be a struggle to obtain our rights, but are ready for the challenge.”

    The extraordinary turn-out at events across the country to mark International Women’s Day show the scale of support for a shift in attitudes and prejudices that continue to hold so many Afghan girls and women back. As well as a peaceful country, they deserve full rights, respect and opportunities.