The following is an excerpt of an interview with the head of the Department of Women’s Affairs in Bamyan – Amina Hassan Por. The specifics of the language of this interview were lost in translation — these are the main ideas:
From my perspective – the Karzai government has not emphasized the rights of women. Karzai has, in the past, signed legislation that severely restricted the rights of women – specifically within the Shi’ite community. What do you think of the relationship between the Karzai government and women’s rights? What would you like to see changed?
Under the Karzai government 25% of seats in Parliament have been awarded to women. This is very important, and these seats cannot be taken away from women. The Western media is wrong, therefore, in saying that this government has restricted the rights of women. However, you are right about one thing. Some of the women in Parliament do not feel like they have a voice, and that they cannot make changes in legislation. They believe their participation is symbolic. We need to work towards giving them a voice.
A foremost goal of the Coalition is to reconcile the Taliban back into Afghan society – by way of providing them with a share in government. Many women have spoken out against this – asserting that reconciliation would have grave consequences for the rights of women. What do you think of reconciling the Taliban and the effect it would have on women’s rights?
I attended the Peace Jirga that occurred a few weeks ago. At the end of the Jirga we came up with a list of 80 requirements that members of the Taliban would have to agree to – to be accepted into government. One of those requirements was that the Taliban must accept women as their equals, and must be willing to work with women in government. If they agree to that, then they’ll be accepted into government. If not, then they won’t.
What would you like the international community to do for women in Afghanistan – that it’s not yet doing?
I have always complained about the 2 – 4 day workshops on women’s rights that international NGOs sponsor. These short-term workshops will not have a significant effect on women’s rights. I believe the international community should provide conditional scholarships for 5 girls from each province to attend university abroad. The condition would be that the girls would have to work for the government once they returned. This would enable educated Afghan women to hold key positions in ministries and have a greater level of authority in Afghanistan.