FIROZ KOH, Afghanistan -- Ghor Province is taking steps to protect women's rights with the appointment of the first female prosecutor in the province.
Nagina Ghori, also the first female college graduate in religious studies in Ghor Province, started work in July.
"When I was a student, I used to feel terrible about our women in this province who endured much repression while no one paid much attention to them," she told Salaam Times. "For that reason, I decided to continue my education in religious studies in order to make justice more accessible to women."
Her endeavours are focused on making justice accessible to other oppressed women, she said, adding that women can understand and address the issues of other women better than their male counterparts.
Protecting all Afghan women
Afghan parliamentarians and women's rights activists warmly welcome the appointment.
"We have made some significant achievements in women's rights in Ghor Province, but still we face challenges and the cause needs more work," Ghor Province MP Syed Nadir Shah Bahr told Salaam Times.
"The presence of women in the judiciary helps protect women's rights in the country," he said.
"This is the first time in the history of the province that a woman was appointed as a prosecutor," said Farida Naseri, chairwoman of the Women's Human Rights Commission in Ghor Province.
"We welcome the appointment of her as the [Ghor] attorney general," she told Salaam Times. "This is a good step, especially since there has never been a prosecutor specialising in eliminating violence [against women] in Ghor."
"Appointing a woman gives us greater hope of properly investigating and addressing violence against women," she said. "Women are now able to properly explain to other women all the problems that they face and all the oppression to which they have been subjected."
Manizha, a Kabul-based women's rights activist, welcomed Ghori's appointment as prosecutor.
Unfortunately, she said, Afghan women still face serious challenges and violence against them, and more needs to be done to reverse their plight.
"First the government and civil society organisations should focus on women's education, and then the government should give a chance to educated women to work within the government, especially in the legal system," she told Salaam Times.
Justice for women
"[Ghori's] responsibility as the prosecutor in charge of cases of violence against women is especially significant since Ghor witnessed the most horrible informal trials and increased violence against women in recent years," said Nooriah Navid, head of the Afghan Women's Network in Ghor Province.
"From among the [militant] 'trials' that took place in Ghor Province, we can point out the brutal trial of Rukhshana," she told Salaam Times.
Late last October, Rukhshana, 19, who went by one name, was buried up to her neck and fatally stoned after the Taliban ordered her killed for attempting to flee a forced marriage and to elope with another man. Mohammad Gul, 22, with whom she had tried to run away, received 100 lashes as punishment.
"We hope that Nagina Ghori, as an educated woman who is aware of the pains and sufferings of women of Ghor, will be able to properly struggle against aggression and assist in providing justice to women," Navid said.
Systemic change is essential if Afghanistan is to increase women's representation in government offices and women's access to justice, Masoumeh Anwari, director of the Ghor Province office of the Ministry of Women's Affairs, said.
"There is not even one female employee in all 25 government offices in Ghor," she told Salaam Times. "Moreover, 95% of women of this province are deprived from having access to justice."
The 95% figure refers to women whose lives are so isolated, usually involving the inability to go outdoors without a male relative, that they cannot readily go to police or find other outside help.
Violence against women in Ghor Province has increased compared to last year, she said.
"Fifty cases of violence against women were recorded in this department last year," she said.
So far in 2016, "38 cases of violence [against women] have been recorded, including five homicides," she added.
"Women of Ghor Province are first and foremost in need of justice," she said. "Violence against this particular group of society will continue for as long as justice is not provided."