Wazhma Frogh and women’s rights in Afghanistan

Goodness, there has been a lot said on the subject that women’s rights as a narrative for war is absurd, hypocritical and wrong, notably when it is uttered by the US or UK.

I feel duty bound to seek answers from those who have raised this issue – Earwicga, The Atlantic, Max Dunbar, HM, Laurie and many more – how do you respond to the following by Wazhma Frogh.

Frogh is a gender and development specialist and human rights activist and recipient of the 2009 International Woman of Courage Award Afghanistan – she’s not short of a few things to say about women’s rights, human rights and the war in Afghanistan.

Indeed, she tore up the “usual human rights” notebook for her interview with Warwick University – where she is doing her Master’s degree – in January of this year.

While talking about human rights, women’s rights and the future of her country (here – mp3 file) the question emerged: What is life like for women in Afghanistan at the moment?

To which Frogh answered:

Things have changed for them for the better in the last 8 years. As one of our MPs, a female MP … she said the past 8 years have been like golden years for the women of Afghanistan and that’s true; that the achievements that we’ve had are incredible.

In terms of the parliament for example we have  27 persons of women in the parliament. This is a big achievement, of course it is because of the quota, of women’s presence in the parliament, we have a ministry of women’s affairs and women in the urban areas … so the international presence has earned some credit over all of this, for women in parliament in Afghanistan.

But at the same time life has not changed for the women in the rural areas and it’s .. important to understand it, that there problems are not born yesterday, they have had these problems for hundreds of years, so they cannot be solved in 8 years.

However, one that was also kind of challenging was the lack of strategic spencidng of the international aid that comes to Afghanistan; it lacked community ownership in most of the times for example – for most of the time a community should have received the funds and it was a private company for example, a private international company because they had to comply with the international standards of importing.

The international aid is a bit controversial on the part of Afghans who do not believe life has changed.

The past 8 years have brought us a lot of achievements for women’s rights but within the urban cities. But at the same time, no matter how critical I am of the development, I would say that the past 8 years have been really the golden years for the women of Afghanistan, and credit should go to the international funders and donors of Afghanistan; the US, UK are the biggest donors [of] the communities; and that’s what I want to bring to the notice of the public

[…]

I didn’t know about it, the way the UK public is questioning the war in Afghanistan, the way they are questioning the presence of their troops. I think if I was a UK citizen, I would have been proud of my troops to be able to go to a country where women’s rights – I know that for example a UK troop has no responsibility to help women of my country, but they are fighting a war that is not a war of this country itself, like the London bombings we know came up because of the Taliban and al-Qaeda that are linked there, and the September 11 attacks, the Madrid attacks, so of course …the terror that has taken root on the borders of Afghanistan and Pakistan is not only our problem, it is very much a global problem, so I think as UK citizens they have to be proud of their soldiers, they have to be proud of their sons and daughters who are out there serving for such a cause that they are not only out there saving their own country, but … they’re helping the human rights of another country’s people and that is what I wanted to bring to the UK, that sort of voice.

The women’s rights narrative from the US/UK may be tinged with a modicom of hypocrisy, fine, but this doesn’t make it an illegitmate reason to support the ongoing state army building exercise, currently operating in Afghanistan against a global force intent on setting us all back a 1000 years.

Update: and here

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