On the Road to Equality

A young girl campaigns for women’s rights

Farzana is a 23-year old graphic design student at Kabul University. She is also an activist campaigning for women’s rights.

As part of a young team in Kabul, she organizes cultural activities all over Afghanistan, trying to change the way people think. Recently, the team organized a women’s cycling tournament to mark the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence.

Farzana was born in Iran, because her parents were refugees from Afghanistan. After she returned to the land of her parents, she noticed that many  women in Afghanistan do not have basic rights.

“I feel extremely sad when I see all these obstacles for women,” says Farzana.

Farzana organized this tournament with support from United Nations to mark the 16 Days of Activism. © ACH / 2018

Exercise is one of the activities which women often feel is off limits to them. It is uncommon in Afghanistan, for example, for women to cycle, although it is a cheap form of transport as well as an excellent way to keep fit. While there are groups of ladies who cycle in teams, fear of harrassment keeps their numbers low, and their activities discreet. That is why a women’s cycling tournament seemed like a good idea to Farzana’s and her friends.

“It was a great experience,” she enthuses, “over 30 young women from Kabul and Bamyan participated at the tournament. We cycled on Kabul’s streets and said ‘no’ to inequality.”

Farzana attributes her strength and determination to fight for women’s rights to the example of her mother. Farzana lost her father many years ago, and her mother had to raise the family alone.

“I learned from my mother to stand on my feet, not to let anyone decide for me,” Farzana says.  “My mom has taught us to study and work hard. She is the strongest woman I’ve ever seen.”

She has also seen the darker side of womens’ lives in Afghanistan. Her elder sister was in a violent marriage until she escaped with the help of her family.

“My sister suffered from domestic violence,” Farzana says. “She did not deserve the life she had.”

The United Nations mark the 16 Days of Activism and gender-based violence to eradicate any type of violence against women through implementing public awareness campaigns, gender equality and women empowerment programmes across the world.

UN Afghanistan organized a countrywide campaign called ‘Champions for Gender Equality’, where activists, advocates, and artists from across the country competed for the best campaign ideas to raise awareness, prevent and decrease violence against women and girls.

The 16 best ideas were selected and implemented during the 16 Days of Activism, which included cycling, radio talk shows, theatre plays, a women’s footstall tournament, a women’s volleyball tournament, and photo exhibitions.

This article was originally published on the UNDP Afghanistan website.

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