Empowering Afghan Women
24 December 2013
On 13 December 2013 the anniversary of the Dutch National Action Plan 1325 “Women, Peace & Security” took place at the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs. One of the main guest speakers was Leeda Yaqoobi, deputy director of Afghan Women’s Network. On the way back to Kabul, Zohra Akseer, Cordaid’s coordinator for Women’s Leadership in Afghanistan, had a long talk with her. In this article Zohra shares her impressions of this powerful woman activist and her work for change in Afghanistan.
Afghanistan is one of the most challenging places in the world for women. As in all protracted conflict situations, Afghan women have suffered the most during the last three decades of violent conflict and foreign invasion. Among many challenges, the deterioration of security is a chief factor that poses serious threats to the lives of Afghan women. Increasingly not only prominent women leaders and female activists, but women in general are targeted in all 34 provinces of Afghanistan. This is illustrated by the recent kidnapping and hanging of a policewoman and a teacher in the southern province of Uruzgan on 15 December.
However, despite all these challenges, there are promising examples of Afghan women activists who try to change and improve the overall situation of women’s rights in the country. The brave young woman, Leeda Yaqoobi, is one such example. She is committed to educate Afghan women, raise their voices, and help them participate in the political and decision-making processes of their country. Leeda has a history of activism in her professional background. She was born in Afghanistan, and immigrated to Pakistan with her family during the years of bloodshed in her country of origin. While being in exile in Pakistan, she began to take some primary steps towards empowering youth, particularly female youth, to take up an active role in their society and demand their basic rights. She believes that “Youth are a critical part of the future of any society, and are specifically important in the development and rehabilitation of a country because youth can play the role of change agents in their society”.
In response to a question why she joined the Afghan Women Network (AWN), a Cordaid partner and reputable organization representing 112 NGO members and 5.000 individual members who are committed to support Afghan women, Leeda says: “Being as a AWN team member is a great opportunity to pave the way for reaching my goal of the improvement of Afghan women’s rights”. She further states that AWN helps her raise the voice of Afghan women at both national and international levels, and enables her to work towards ensuring women‘s participation in national processes, particularly in peacebuilding, political transition, rehabilitation and reconstruction of the country.
During her presentation at the anniversary of the Dutch NAP 1325, Leeda urged Dutch organizations and the Dutch government to continue their support of Afghan women in the post-2014 era by reaffirming their genuine commitment to empower Afghan women in the upcoming years. The Dutch continuous support and commitment would ensure the participation and inclusion of Afghan women in the upcoming presidential and parliamentary elections, peace-talk processes, and the implementation of the NAP 1325.
In the long run she has a much bigger vision. Leeda: “I want my country's women, who constitute more than half of the population, to become the torch bearers for their coming generation. They should consolidate their efforts together with their male colleagues in all developmental efforts for their country”. Leeda will continue her activist bent and develop her knowledge and skills of international legal and social standards in order to help Afghan women in national decision-making processes.