International Women's Day: Raising awareness of women's rights in Afghanistan
Gradually reworking society’s image of women. How Afghan women are asserting their rights.
Assisting Afghan women to assert their rights while gradually making Afghanistan more socially aware – the Gender Focal Points (GFPs) certainly have an ambitious agenda. Gender Focal Points, aka contact persons for girls and women, assist women and girls in their communities who are seeking advice on legal issues and inform them of their rights. 119 of these voluntary contact persons are currently operating in 115 communities in northern Afghanistan. As Afghan citizens, they fully understand the cultural and societal situation. Gender Focal Points advise on disputes within the family, but also provide counselling on highly serious issues like domestic violence, forced marriage and rape.
Strengthening women's rights, also during the pandemic
Lockdown especially saw a further increase in violence against women. With their social life restricted, women were left with even fewer options for reporting such incidents. The Gender Focal Points are therefore endeavouring to reach out to women and girls during the COVID-19 pandemic, too. In December 2020 alone, they succeeded in handling more than 440 requests for assistance from women – both in person and on the phone – in spite of the difficult conditions. These efforts make it possible to maintain client relationships based on trust. Most of the women are anxious and often do not know who to turn to in their hour of need. 'The situation is not easy for women. Most of them don't know their rights. Not only their families and society, but the women themselves think that from the day they’re born, girls should just stay at home, get married and have children. Through our work, we are slowly changing this mindset,' points out women's rights activist Sakina Nejrabi. The Gender Focal Points acquire the knowledge they need through further training and workshops organised by the Deutsche Gesellschaft für International Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH. Furthermore, the GFPs continually engage in exchanges with local representatives of the Ministry of Women's Affairs, legal institutions or the police. Only when they all cooperate with the women and their contacts is it possible for women to assert their rights in society.
Violence against women and girls was already widespread in this Central Asian country before the COVID-19 pandemic: According to the United Nations, almost 90 per cent of Afghan women have experienced at least one form of physical, sexual or emotional abuse in their lives. On behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), and together with the Afghan Ministry of Justice, GIZ has been supporting rule of law in this country since 2003, including, as of 2016, the work of local Gender Focal Points.