Canada's national newspaper the Globe and Mail has devoted a fair amount of ink this morning to the cause of women's rights and development in Afghanistan. We highly recommend reading all three feature articles that shed light on the critical need for Afghans to give women more of a share of justice and basic civil rights for the country, with the support of their international friends like Canada.
Ottawa should heed the advice of CARE Canada, which has called on the government to measure its post-conflict engagement in Afghanistan through the lens of improved human rights. Specifically, Canada could help tackle the barriers girls face in attending primary and secondary school; help train Afghan police in human rights; protect female leaders; ensure women are included in public-policy debate and peace-building; and focus on maternal and child health.
Afghan women need support so they can claim what is rightly theirs. Canada has an enduring obligation, and must not abandon what it has started...
In the seven years since Afghanistan adopted a constitution and set up a parliament, the country has put in place laws establishing equal rights and outlawing violence against women. Yet laws alone have changed little for the vast majority of women who must still rely on the good will of male relatives, rather than the formal legal system, to claim those rights.
In most parts of the country, the boundaries of an Afghan woman’s life is still set by men: what she wears, at what age she marries, whether she can go to a doctor when she’s ill, if she gets the inheritance she is due, and how much violence she is made to bear...
Improving the plight of Afghan women and children is one of the key reasons cited by the Harper government for Canada's continued military involvement in the war-torn country.
But is our presence, along with the efforts of other western nations, having any impact?
“In Afghanistan, it’s useless to leave it to men to talk about women’s rights because they think only in terms of how they can benefit,” says Shahla Farid, a human-rights law professor at Kabul University.
“The other approach is for women to learn from each other and fight for their rights. It’s far from widespread, but we are seeing some results.”