Canadians are well aware that women in Afghanistan face tremendous gender discrimination resulting from years of patriarchal rule. The average Canadian might feel that the situation for women in Afghanistan is improving.
All is not as it seems. Rona Tareen, the Women’s Affairs director for the province of Kandahar, respectfully disagrees that women’s lives are improving across the country.
Tareen comments that international forces in her country have done little to help women-or anybody-despite big promises. Tareen’s experiences are documented in an article by Craig Pearson for the Canwest News Service and sheds light on the opinions of women who are working in the public sector. The article paints a grim picture for women, claiming they battle “heavy odds in the struggle for freedom and dignity.”
Another woman interviewed in Kandahar, who refused to identify herself, claimed that “women don’t have any rights.” To many women despite the ousting of the Taliban certain men-rich or poor, urban or rural- still see women as second class citizens.
Despite the disappointments and obstacles faced by Afghan women Canadian officials maintain that we are making a difference in these women’s lives. According to CIDA representative Chantal Ruel, the situation of women in Afghanistan is improving. “If you compare Afghanistan today to Canada today, the status of women in Afghanistan is appalling,” Ruel said. “But if you compare it to how far we’ve come, it’s getting better.”