Afghan Once Led the U.S. in Women’s Rights — Women’s Campaign Fund

In 1919, Afghan women became eligible to vote before many other nations. The first girls’ school was opened in 1921 and the 1964 constitution guaranteed rights and equality for all. The darkness of the 1990s saw light again a decade later. We cannot let the dusk of today become the dank of night again.

The clock is ticking very loudly these days in Kabul. The gauntlet to get to the airport and possible freedom cost at least 183 lives in one split second this week.

And women are finding even their first hopeful steps to freedom cut short by acts of terror and treachery.

What we are learning now, however, is that U.S. government officials are responsive to calls for help from Americans who can provide information regarding those in Kabul who need it. In Kabul is the key, for those outside the city limits are too far from the reach of assistance.

So today write, call, email, visit, do all you can to send a name or names of those in need. Your female allies of the last 20 years must count on people like you to pull them free. How? Those who can get them out have the ability to contact them.

One such person — a woman helping from within — is Sara Wahedi. She started an enterprise in 2020 called Ehtesab to send real-time crisis alerts to users across Kabul. When the Afghan government fled and Kabul became bedlam, she, and those with her, continued to provide security updates while keeping themselves as safe as possible.

She also insists: women cannot surrender just because the Taliban has returned. “We know that the incremental but significant freedoms we’ve gained will not be secure,” she wrote in a recent Tweet. She and others say they are focusing on dual tracks — fighting the Taliban as best they can while helping to get out those who wish to leave and can find passage.

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What we are learning now… is that U.S. government officials are responsive to calls for help from Americans who can provide information regarding those in Kabul who need it.

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Another area where we can make a difference: reach out to members of the military command we may know through work and interactions. One of the less reported military success stories of Afghanistan — perhaps epitomizing female empowerment — was the training of female Afghan military volunteers to a level equivalent to special forces.

How the Taliban will treat these women causes us to shudder.

The architects of the US troop withdrawal, and even the peace talks that preceded it, did not safeguard women, given their acute vulnerability, raising a question as to whether their freedoms were ever a top item on the agenda. This, as we negotiated to leave a country that once was a true leader in women’s rights.

©2021 Women’s Campaign Fund

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