Activist Mariam Wardak Writes About The Four Women Who Set An Example For Afghanistan
- IWB Post
- March 16, 2019
Despite being one of the fastest growing regions of the world, South Asia remains alienated from the rest of the world to a great extent. It continues being the exotic “other” owing to a plethora of reasons, its unique religious backdrop, volatile gender dynamics, and the complex political scenario being some of them.
IWB recognises that the need right now is to take charge of the situation and facilitate a dialogue among women representatives from South Asian nations like Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bangladesh, China, and Sri Lanka. And this woman’s history month, we’re doing just that through a series of Twitter dialogues till March 25.
The idea is to get women thinkers together and brainstorm on peace, women’s rights, and gender dynamics. We have already roped in women thinkers and intellectuals like the feminist writer and speaker Noorjahan Akbar, activist Mariam Wardak, founder of Mother Camp & Taj-Begum Restaurant, Laila Haidari, and Taliban attack survivor Habiba Ashna Marhoon, among others.
As part of the #CrossBorderDialogues series, Mariam has penned her thoughts on the ‘New Afghanistan’. Read on…
There is a plethora of incredible people to celebrate this month. Throughout history, women have changed nations with their ability and belief to create a better future. In light of the recent US negotiations with the Taliban in Doha, Qatar, there has been a strong push back from Afghan women as they will not be spoken for. In this push back, I’ve noticed a term/label the ‘New Afghanistan’, featuring strong intelligent women reaching success early in their careers. To me, Afghanistan is about all the women, especially those who are leaving a legacy for the upcoming legends. A legacy of positive change and contributing to the community but with a balance between the three core elements of their lives: family, friends, and love for Afghanistan. In the momentum of change, this is the perfect opportunity to remember the efforts of those who paved the paths of success for us and highlight the experienced and existing actors of empowerment.
Deputy Minister Kamela Sediqi is known by rural women for creating financial security for females. Kamela Sediqi began her first company, a tailoring business, under Taliban rule in Afghanistan to support her mother and brother. Her story is chronicled by Gayle Tzemach Lemmon in “The Dressmaker of KhairKhana”, which describes how Kamela and other Afghan women had to navigate the restrictions placed by the Taliban to support their families. Kamela’s story begins when she feels the pressure to help her family in hard economic circumstances. She convinces her sister to teach her how to make a dress and then has her brother take her to the market to sell it. A local shopkeeper buys the dress and orders more, changing the course of Kamela’s life. Through her business venture, she goes on to employ her siblings, friends, and neighbours. A decade later in 2014, Kamela started the first centralized taxi service in Afghanistan. In 2017 to date, the entrepreneur was appointed as Deputy Minister of Commerce.
Leading new opportunities is what Nadima Sahar is known for by friends and colleagues. A native of Kabul, Nadima graduated Magna Cum Laude from Rogers Williams University in USA, and then earned her Master’s in Public Policy. Nadima returned to Kabul and built a center for Afghan arts and crafts called The Galleria, working with hundreds of artisans including women from around Afghanistan. Shortly after, Nadima founded the first ever truly women-owned and operated research company called Soft Power Solutions. Her study on Afghan children’s access to education was ranked fourth among the 50 best evaluations conducted for UNICEF in 2014. In May of 2018, Nadima was appointed to lead Afghanistan’s Technical and Vocational Education and Training Board. Recently, she helped bring the first Children’s Museum for Science and Technology.
In the midst of War, Lailuma Nasiri is a warrior for rights. Lailuma has more than 10 years of gender justice and human rights experience and she is currently the Vice President of Afghanistan Justice Organization. Lailuma has conducted, organized, and presented in various conferences, including Women’s Rights and Freedom in Afghanistan, Afghan Women Participation in Justice Sector, and Role of Afghan Women in Peace-Building, Human Rights, Youth and Elections. Lailuma also contributed to Afghan Zariza, a national English news and analysis website, attending multiple national televised round table discussions and published several publications on Women Rights and Anti-Corruption.
Homayra Ludin Etamadi is one of Afghanistan’s leading women paving the path for the upcoming female generation to build peace and hope. Homayra is currently an advisor to the former President of Afghanistan, Hamed Karzai, and served as his Deputy Chief of Staff for seven years. Prior to joining the President’s office, Homayra was based in Geneva, Switzerland, where she pursued a career in the development and humanitarian fields while working with the International Federation of Red Cross/Red Crescent Societies. Homayra was a co-founder of the first NGO international coalition lobbying with government and international organizations on refugee, women, and children’s rights. As Chair of the International Working Group on Refugee Women, she convened the first international conference on Muslim Refugee Women. Homayra worked on women’s issues in her work with Afghan National Commission for UNESCO where she collaborated closely with what is called the Ministry of Women’s Affairs today. Homayra was the first Afghan woman to attend the University of Cambridge and receive her Bachelor’s and Master’s degree.
While we should and continue to empower the young, we must appreciate and learn from those who contributed before us. In my 10 years of service to Afghanistan, I’ve always tried to initiate an informal platform for mentorship, creating a sister circle. Building relationships amongst the female community is crucial for guidance, support, and, a social life. Whether most of the Afghan women I have had the honour to know knew it or not, they were imparting lessons to me. The power of sisterhood is stronger than any organization. A support network is powerful than any mean. A sisterhood is a social, ethical, and emotional pact between women. It’s based on an understanding that together we are stronger than we are as individuals. That empowerment is only possible if we come together and treat each other as sisters, not opponents. It’s a relationship based on our value as a collective, determined to make true change in the world. The women of Afghanistan, existing or upcoming, are of Afghanistan and represent wisdom, knowledge, dedication, effort, love, and pride. It’s her Afghanistan.
Mariam Wardak is a social activist and former Strategic Communication and International Relations Adviser to Afghan NSA.