Afghan men: crucial advocates for women's rights

Fri Dec 23, 2011 5:26am EST
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By Jan Harvey

KABUL (Reuters) - Being a feminist in Afghanistan isn't always easy, even for a man. Kabul university student Ferdous Samim has had trouble persuading even his own mother that the work he does pushing for women's rights is worthwhile.

"Part of the problem in Afghanistan is that most women think like men," said Samim over tea in the garden of a Kabul cafe.

"I don't have a sister, but I'm sure if I did, and she tried to go outside the house, my mother would be asking where she was going, what she was doing, why she was going out."

A member of the male advocacy wing of activist group YoungWomen4Change, he is part of a small but critical group of male activists helping Afghan women fight for a better life.

His modest goal for the next two decades -- that women should be able to walk in Afghanistan's streets and markets without harassment -- is a reminder of the scale of the challenge women still face.

Forced marriage is still rife, rape victims have been jailed for "forced adultery," and a woman is more likely to die in childbirth in Afghanistan than anywhere else on earth.

And many of the men with power to change how women are treated -- from mullahs to tribal elders -- are not willing to listen to female activists.

Men have played an important role in feminist movements around the world, but the segregation of much of Afghan society makes their role particularly important.   Continued...

<p>Members of activist group YoungWomen4Change arrange posters demanding rights for women in Kabul December 23, 2011. REUTERS/Omar Sobhani</p>