Afghan Delegation, 2009
Seeds of Peace GATHER Fellow, 2020
Reducing violence against Afghan women.
How has Seeds of Peace had an impact on you?
My love of working with people, especially women, is connected to my Seeds of Peace Camp experience at age of 14 in 2009. I learnt about co-existence, friendship, loyalty, diversity, and how to change the world for the better. Overall, the experience changed my life and inspired me to get involved in various volunteer projects. These opportunities gave me leadership experience, which is rare in my community.
How have you impacted your community?
I co-created and piloted the Tollfree Helpline for Women and Children in Afghanistan, the first ever hotline in Afghanistan which aims to reduce violence against women. We provide access to legal and psychological advice for women and children through their mobile phones.
The idea for the hotline came to us in 2018 when I was working with Ministry of Women’s Affairs and I saw that rates of violence against women had increased in the past three years. We began to recognize that one reason was a lack of access to legal courts and protection centers. We drafted a proposal to create a free hotline for women across the country and to provide them with information about their rights and how to escape violence at home.
I have extensive professional experience in research and policy making and have worked with a variety of government institutions as well as local and international NGOs.
From a very young age, I was heavily involved in many social justice campaigns in my community to advocate for environmental, peace-building, and women’s rights.
What is the need you are trying to meet through your work?
In a community where almost 90% of women have experienced different types of violence and sexual abuse, the biggest need would be fighting against violence and reducing it. I am trying to address the same issue through my work. My project as a toll-free helpline for women and children nationwide seeks to address violence cases against women and connect the victims of violence to justice. We aim to act as a bridge between victims and justice.
Why do you do the work you do?
From a very young age of almost 14, I decided to be a feminist. This decision changed my life and I am doing my work as a committed feminist who says no to violence. If we cannot eliminate violence then at least we can reduce it. I enjoy my work despite all the challenges I am facing just because of my promise to serve the women of my community and to fight for their rights.
Tell us about the community you come from. How did it help shape who you are?
I was born and lived my whole life in a patriarchal community where women are kept silent, discriminated against, and not heard. My community has suffered for decades and I felt it is the time to change things and break the chain. My community shaped me in another way: I decided to fight the rules which are unfair to me and to other women in my community. I chose not to be one of the silent and unheard women, but a fighter for my rights and the rights of others.
What is one thing that you have learned in the course of doing this work that you want everyone to know?
Before starting my project, it seemed to be very challenging and with very limited possibilities of success, but I always kept my faith. It was not easy for a woman with no backing from the government to initiate a $450,000 project. It seemed impossible. But once I started, I learned nothing is impossible and it doesn’t always need to have the backing of high-level officials. I believe that change is being made by us ordinary people. Change doesn’t always need to start from the top; change can happen bottom up, too.
“My ultimate goal is to build a community free of discrimination against women, where women can enjoy the same rights as men. ”