Throughout this year’s Iranian presidential elections, women flooded the streets. Now, improving women’s rights is a hot topic with Iranian lawmakers. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the women in Afghanistan. Many hoped that a U.S. presence in the country would bring more focus on the women’s movement. But it turns out that once the Taliban leaders left town, equally malicious Afghan warlords took their place. Because of fear of further oppression, today’s Afghan women’s movement uses underground tactics—mainly, forming secret organizations to educate women. But two Afghan women say it’s time to rise above the fray. Pashtoon Azfar and Malalai Joya are not keeping their thoughts quiet—they’re practically shouting them from the rooftop. And they face constant death threats and possible execution. [Jezebel]According to The New York Times, Afghanistan’s maternal morality rate is the second worst in the world. But Pashtoon Azfar, a midwife and teacher, sees hope in the fact that 78 percent of maternal deaths can be prevented. Through education and the support of various American and international organizations, Pashtoon is working to recruit and adequately train midwives, since the government isn’t into supporting proper pregnancy care. A mother of five kids herself, Pashtoon works round the clock training new midwives with her own knowledge and usually her own money.
At the ripe age of 16, Malalai Joya fought the Taliban’s oppression, joining the Organization for Promoting Afghan Women’s Capabilities (OPAWC) and teaching young Afghan girls in an underground school. Just before September 11, Malalai opened a women’s clinic. She was promptly told to shut it down by the warlords then controlling the country. Malalai refused and decided to run for a seat in Parliament. She, amazingly, won. Malalai so fervently voiced her concerns for women’s rights and over her country’s own political system that American and NATO troops brought her under their constant protection after her words sparked a riot in Parliament. Political warlords got so tired of making harsh death threats that they eventually illegally kicked Malalai out of her Parliamentary seat. Malalai now jumps from safe-house to safe-house, spreading the women’s movement. She’s also written a book, called Raising My Voice about the movement to educate as many people as she can.
These two women serve as symbols of inspiration not only for women’s rights, but for doing what’s right against unbelievable odds.