Physical, sexual, and psychological violence does not spare many women in Afghanistan. 87% of the over fifteen million Afghan women have experienced some form of violence in their lives. Herat, the second most populated province in western Afghanistan is no different. It has one of the highest rates of violence against women and girls of the country, but just a few of these crimes are reported. Too often this is because there is simply no one to whom they are able to turn.
Amina Ehrary, a Herat resident and a 42-year-old mother of three, was determined to change this. Having spent most of his life fighting for women's rights, she now runs her own women counseling center where she advises, supports and gets access to justice for survivors of gender-based violence.
Amina’s tireless efforts to change the lives of women has transformed her into a role model for other women and someone the community trusts.
“I was threatened to death and forced to stop fighting for women, but I`m not afraid of anyone. I`ll fight until I get justice for the women in my community,” says Amina.
Most of the problems women face in Afghanistan are the consequence of cultural practices that deny women's rights and the lack of awareness among women about their legal rights. Women affected by violence do not know how to report the complaint and when they reach to the police and other government bodies they do not get support from them, instead, they are being mocked for sharing their personal issues publicly.
Changing the mindset of men
As Amina has been educated in Sharia Law, she can articulate the difference between Islamic laws and cultural practices with authority. She usually visits remote villages in Herat where she mobilizes women and men and conducts awareness sessions about women's rights.
Amina’s efforts do not end there, she also approaches religious leaders and asks them to raise awareness in their communities on how Islam strictly disapproves violence against women and girls.
“When I go to the meetings and workshops on women rights, some men of my community ask me to take their wives with me as well, so that they could also learn from these meetings. This makes me very happy when I see changes in the mindset of men.”
She is also a member of the Community Development Council (CDC) in Herat, supported by Oxfam as part of a wider Afghan government project to help communities identify and prioritize their local needs, and, especially to empower women and girls to be able to help define the future of their communities at many levels.
Being a part of this project taught Amina to identify and solve the challenges she faces in her community. She applies the learning and experiences in her daily life and shares them with other women asking for advice at her counseling center.
Achieving gender justice to tackle poverty
At Oxfam, we consider that systematic discrimination against women and girls is both a cause and a result of the inequality that drives poverty. That's why gender justice is one of the strongest pillars that we have in Afghanistan, through which we promote women's rights.
As part of our programs, we support the participation of women in decision making, provide them livelihood support and opportunities and enable them to support their families in income generation, increase their access to justice and promote their role in inclusive security and inclusive political participation.