Afghan Women are asking, “Where is my Name?”
‘Where Is My Name?’ A social media campaign demanding that Afghan men refer to their own name in public is gaining traction in the deeply patriarchal country.
It is common in Afghanistan for women to be known only as the “wife of” or “daughter of” someone. Often their names are omitted from wedding invites and even grave stones.
But an online campaign called Where Is My name, started recently by a group of young Afghan women, is challenging the centuries-old tradition and seeking to spread awareness about the right to identity.
“Our society is full of injustice for women, basically everything is taboo for women,” Said activist Bahar Sohaili, a prominent member of the campaign.
“With this campaign we aim to change many things for women, and social media has opened a new window to Afghanistan’s young generation”, she said.
The practice of erasing women’s
names is rooted in afghan customs, rather than Islam, the dominant religion.
It is a symbol of women’s second class status in society, where decisions about their education and marriage are left to the men of the family.
Bahar Sohaili and her friends are fighting for the day that a woman’s name and her identity will no longer be shameful.
“We aim to put pressure on the government to enact laws to protect women’s right. Whenever we demand our rights before a court or in parliament the officials use the pretext of religion to put us down,” She said.
According to Afghan law a Mother’s name should not be recorded on a birth certificate. Abdullhah Atahi, a spokesman for the High Court in Kabul told that Afghan society wasn’t ready for change.
“We don’t have a problem mentioning the mother’s name on the birth certificate on other relevant documents but in
Afghanistan’s culture people aren’t ready for such a modern step”, he said. “It may invite unwanted chaos”.
The movement held its first public event in the capital Kabul recently. It was attended by dozens of women. A government minister and several scholars made speeches.
“We have got together to break a taboo. We want our women to know about their own name, to have their own identity, said Tahnima Arian, who helped to organize the gathering.
Sabira Madady, a 20 year old student, once had to repeatedly ask a teacher to call her by her name in class. Even then he would only use her family name so as not to “identify her to boys”, she said
“When someone calls me by another name I feel so bad, like I am not a human being. Society sees me as belonging to someone else,” Madady said
In some rural areas, where there is little education, men are known
to even use a single term, roughly translated as “Black Headed”, to refer to women.
But there has also been plenty of negative feedback.
“It’s better to say, ‘Where is my Hijab rather than Where is my name? May god never make women shameless,” wrote one social media user.
Another accused the campaign of “misleading Afghan women” and trying to turn them into Westerners.
Tahnima Arian said the activists had even been called “Prostitutes”. She admits they have taken a risk in speaking out but remain determined to help “all Afghan women”.
Discrimination against women in Islam religion is already a burning topic. They have to wear hijab, they have to get married earlier, they have cover their face when they see a man and most of them don’t even get proper education.
These challenges are particularly pronounced in the Muslim world, where approximately 65 percent of women are illiterate, compared to 40 percent of men. The UN’s Arab Human Development Report points out that in Arab countries, the high rates of gender inequality coincide with lack of economic opportunities among women. Female labor force participation is slightly less than 24 percent, and among young women, less than 18 percent-the lowest rate among all regions. The share of women in GDP in the Arab region is only about 29 percent, against 50 percent in all developing countries. And the poverty rate is 31.6 percent among women, but 19 percent among men.
Now the Muslim world, especially
Afghanistan must realize that not supporting women’s empowerment is among the biggest barriers to a country’s economic advancement.
The Bangladeshi writer Taslima Nasrin who fought against Women Discrimination has once said “Women are oppressed in the East, in the West, in the South, in the North. Women are oppressed inside, outside home, a woman is oppressed in religion, and she is oppressed outside religion”.
She had even earned the wrath of Muslims for writing an article titled “Let’s burn the burqa”. We have witnessed the men breaking Islamic moral code to punish a woman for speaking against the Burqa.
There are several women in this world who have been punished by the society for speaking against these kinds of atrocities against women. Hope the leaders of Where Is My name campaign will be able to reach their goals. Like all the ladies who fought against discrimination, they too have to win this challenge.