Celebrating International Women's Day in Afghanistan

Afghanistan, March 11, 2010

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  <span class="field-credit">
    Sayeed Farhad Zalmi  </span>
    Several of Mercy Corps' female team members in Afghanistan smile with their gifts celebrating International Women's Day. Photo: Sayeed Farhad Zalmi

Mercy Corps Afghanistan celebrated International Women's Day in Kabul with bunches of flowers and gifts for female staff. Many of Mercy Corps' female staff here are working in high positions: country director, program manager, deputy program manager, head of departments and coordinators.

The party began around 2 p.m. and all staff from Mercy Corps' main offices gathered for this important event. At the opening speech, Mercy Corps' deputy country director — Dr. Sardar — congratulated Mercy Corps' female staff on International Women's Day.

Dr. Sardar emphasized the significant role of women in global development. He counted Mercy Corps' female staff as key players of our program achievements. “If you see the biggest people in the world, he/she is born by a woman and raised by a woman,’’ he said. At the end of his speech, Dr. Sardar called Christian Mulligan — Mercy Corps Afghanistan's country director — and presented her a bunch of flowers and a scarf.

One by one, each female staff member received gifts.

Fahima Rahimpur — Mercy Corps Afghanistan's Deputy Manager of Monitoring, Evaluation and Information Management — expressed her thoughts: "As a woman working in a male-dominated society, you can maintain your personal momentum by staying true to who you are, knowing your strengths and having the confidence to show them off. Take advantage of your uniqueness. If you are the only woman, consider it a positive, not a negative. Every time you attend a meeting or lead a presentation you have a tremendous opportunity to showcase your skills and talents.

"Mercy Corps Afghanistan is one of the few organizations here where women are busy working in many different positions," she continued. "Although most of the workers are men, the friendly, safe, professional and supportive environment given and provided to the ladies is beyond imagination. For me as a women working in such an organization, I really feel privileged and honored."

"Celebration and recognition of International Women's Day gives you the feeling of being valuable and credible to male co-workers and the whole organization. It paves the way for more growth and significant contribution towards achievements of goals. This is a great opportunity to thank all male colleagues for their support.’’

This day is celebrated in a time when the new government of Afghanistan has put some extra attention on appointing women in high positions. The first female provincial governor, the appointment of three female cabinet ministers and several deputy ministers are some positive evidence that women were making progress in male-dominated conservative Afghan society.

Although such progress has been made, discrimination against and abuse of women continues. Domestic violence and forced marriages are all too common, and many women in the country suffer from poor access to legal resources and exclusion from public life.

Afghanistan has a ways to go in its recognition and treatment of women — but here at Mercy Corps Afghanistan, we appreciate and celebrate their work every day.