Women's Rights

Driver's licences in Faryab mark latest achievement for Afghan women

By Hedayatullah

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In this undated photo, newly trained female drivers receive instructions from a traffic police officer in Maimana, Faryab Province. [Social media]

KUNDUZ -- Thirty females obtained driver licences late last month Maimana, Faryab Province, marking another milestone for women's rights in Afghanistan.

They are the first women in their province to gain the right to drive.

"These women and girls received practical and theoretical training on traffic rules for 21 days," said Abdul Latif Khairkhwa, chief of Faryab Traffic Police.

"Sixty women had signed up for this round of training, and 30 of them who had the necessary driving skills obtained their driver licence," he said.

Yoldaz Masroor, a civil society activist in Faryab Province, was among those who received their licences on September 27.

"Unfortunately, some men consider women working outside the house an embarrassment, but women should be allowed to showcase their talent," she said.

Maria Noori, director of the Faryab Women's Affairs Department, called the women's success an achievement, adding that they can now drive taxis, take patients to hospitals if needed and buy groceries without men.

"Society needs women in every aspect, and ... driving is one of the daily necessities for women in a family," she said.

"Every woman can learn how to drive," Noori added.

Hopes for peace

Women in the province are very hopeful for peace and improvements in security, as well as in the economic and social aspects of life, Noori said.

The start of intra-Afghan talks "has given much hope to those women in Faryab who have suffered greatly from insecurity", she said. "There must be guarantees that our achievements of the last two decades will not be threatened."

The Afghan government and Taliban negotiators have been engaged in peace talks in Doha, Qatar, since September 12.

"There are 12 non-profit organisations in Faryab alone working in the areas of training and building the capacity of women, with 10 to 15 women working in each organisation," Noori added.

As part of those efforts, a market with 45 shops featuring products and handicrafts produced by women opened last month, according to Noori.

Five to 10 women work in each shop, selling their products to customers. They also ship handicrafts made by women to neighbouring Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan and import dresses and other products for women from there, Noori said.

The international community -- especially the United States -- played a key role in bringing the Taliban to the negotiation table, said Shirin Hussaini, a student at Faryab University.

This historic opportunity must be fully utilised, she stressed.

"Our request from the international community is to create a mediating team to persuade both parties during negotiations," Hussaini added.

"We did not expect that the two parties would come together behind a negotiating table," she said. "We take this a good omen and pray to God to permanently end the war in our country."

Preserving the achievements

Women in Faryab emphasised that their achievements of the past two decades should not be sacrificed in any agreement between the Afghan government and the Taliban.

Women never want to step backward as they have realised that in the current system the constitution has given women all their rights, said Maliha Atae, a women's rights activist in Faryab Province.

"I am personally in charge of an educational institution for women. We have been able to implement hundreds of projects for women in the last 10 years. These projects have made a huge difference in the growth and self-sufficiency of women," she said.

"Capacity-building projects and awareness of women's rights, as well as awareness of violence against women and other area, have been our main activities," she said. "They have empowered women to be aware of their rights."

"The difference between the situation under the Taliban government [1996-2001] and this government has been enormous and incomparable," said Nasrin Saberi, a resident of Maimana.

"Once women could come out of the four walls of their homes, they studied and became teachers, entrepreneurs, doctors, judges and police," she said.

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It is surprising that women are driving in Faryab. Eighty percent of Faryab province territory is controlled by Taliban, and every day the local authorities in Faryab province say that dissidents of the government have reached to the gates of Maimana city. They should first go and provide security in the city of Maimana and then offer driving licenses to women. Security is more important than anything else.

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It is a good move.

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I think we are still very far from the women’s driving, because there is still war going on in our country and the culture of patriarchy is still dominant in the society. Even Saudi Arabia, which is a very peaceful and developed country, has recently allowed women to drive. So Afghanistan is far from allowing women to drive. Currently Taliban are present four-kilometerس away from the city of Maimana, Faryab province. If these women are seen by the Taliban, they may be shot by them. We must first bring peace to our country. After peace, we must work to build our own culture and make the people to understand that women constitute half of the society’s population and they may also work and drive in the framework of Islam. Then we can offer driving licenses to the women.

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