We must go back so that we can move forward

We must go back so that we can move forward – Sounding Off

Susan Safi-Rafiq

I have been asked time and again what was life like in Afghanistan before 1979? Did my country have a constitution, schools, colleges and hospitals? Everyone is amazed when they learn about the past, especially the past of Afghan women.

My grandmother’s generation was the vanguard for equal rights; my mother and I are products of those peaceful times. Women won the right to education in the 1920s. The 1933 and 1964 Afghan constitutions, written and signed by Afghan women and men, granted equal rights to all.

Before the Soviet invasion (1979), Afghanistan was a developing country with a legitimate constitution and a bustling economy. Sixty percent of the country’s educators, 50 percent of medical professionals, and 50 percent of government employees were women.

After invasions and wars for almost 24 years, the last six while held hostage by the Taliban with unspeakable practices against Afghan women, what remains is a tragically destroyed civilization.

Education, the most important ingredient of a civilized society, was targeted first in the demolition and isolation of the Afghan society. Highly educated professional women, deprived of their constitutional rights and banned from working, were forced to support their children by begging; girls older than seven were banned from education and became targets of the child-trafficking mafia; boys were sent to camps for indoctrination into terrorism under the cover of Islam.

We need the restoration of the legitimate 1964 constitution. Education, capacity training, leadership training and micro-credit loan projects are high on the list of priorities for assistance to Afghan women. We urgently need continuous global support and collaboration among organizations across all boundaries–religious, cultural, linguistic, national and geographic.

What can Americans do for Afghan women? Professionals could volunteer to travel to Afghanistan and help retrain women, bringing them into the 21st century. For example, medical doctors who were banned from working require retraining to regain confidence so that they can start doing their jobs and train other medical personnel. Female lawyers need international law training and support.

Afghan women require leadership training so that they can train others to take leadership roles. This is an urgent requirement for a peaceful and productive Afghanistan.

Educators need to see their schools and universities rebuilt and material available to start teaching. The generation of 12- to 14-year-olds (girls and boys) needs to be re-educated, taught the language of peace and study under a rigorous education plan in order to participate in the rebuilding of their country. The future is in their hands and yours.

COPYRIGHT 2003 League of Women Voters

COPYRIGHT 2003 Gale Group