WASHINGTON -- March 1 --Even the former mayor of Kabul lived in desperation, smothered by oppressive codes that drove women deep underground during the Taliban's rule. Unable to leave their homes without a male escort, hidden by cumbersome burkas, Afghanistan's women dreamed of the changes they could make, if only possible. Today, they have the chance.
As nonprofit leaders in their homeland, eight Afghan women already touch the lives of thousands. On March 1, they will reach U.S. soil to speak directly to policy makers on Capitol Hill, at the World Bank, the State Department, the United Nations, and even over tea with the Ambassador of Afghanistan, on behalf of their fellow countrywomen.
The obstacles will be daunting. Some, having never left their home region, are unsure what to expect when dealing with our very different culture. Yet, over the next two weeks, many look forward to dramatic personal growth as they act to provoke change.
Trafficking of women is on the rise in Afghanistan, as is rape, forced marriage, drug use, and senseless acts of everyday violence. In the meantime, a third of women living in Kabul are not permitted to leave their homes. They have no inheritance rights, find it nearly impossible to divorce, and are struggling to regain their health, livelihoods, and a sense of place.
The Afghan visitors will be assisted by the nonprofit organization, ActionAid International, which has operations in some 45 countries (including Afghanistan), and the Policy Council on Afghan Women, whose founder, Malaly Pikar Volpi, is herself an Afghan refugee.
The delegation includes: Ms. Roshan Sirran, former Mayor of Kabul City (1980 to 1988); Mary Akrami, Director, Afghan Women Skills Development Center; Brishna Ayaz, Women's English teacher and literacy trainer, Omid Learning Center; Hulan Khatibi executive director, Women's Activities and Social Services Association; Marina Nawabi, policy director, Action Aid Afghanistan; Nelofar Qadiri, Women and Children Legal Research Foundation; Gul Maky Siawash, director, Kabul Orthopedic Organization; and Arezo Mohammad Yasin, Educational & Training Center for Poor Women & Girls of Afghanistan.