Despite progresses, women are still victims of violence: Afghan MP Fawzia Koofi tells The Oslo Times
Fawzia Koofi is an Afghan Children and Women’s right activist who has worked extensively in the children’s right-to education sector and was an integral part of UNICEF’s ‘Back to School’ campaign for girls. Also a Member of Parliament in Kabul and is the Vice President of the National Assembly.
This dynamic politician during her visit to Oslo, spoke to The Oslo Times International News Network’s Editor-in-Chief Hatef Mokhtar about the current human rights and political situation in her country. She has also announced her intention to run as a presidential candidate in the 2014 elections in Afghanistan.
Can you tell me a little bit about the women rights in Afghanistan currently?
Thank you so much sir, it’s very nice to see you second time in Oslo. If you compare women’s rights in Afghanistan in the past two decades, I can say the last decade has been a golden time for women in Afghanistan. We have made progress in many ways. There has been progress in-terms of women’s participation in politics, right now we have 69 women in parliament out of 249, which makes it 27 percent of the total seats. Schools have been opened for women and they are allowed to work in the health or in any other sector they want to. Despite these progresses, women are still victims of violence— domestic violence, like rape, sexual abuses, and physical abuses. So, these are the main challenges that Afghan women are facing nowadays. Besides that, poverty is the main challenge that threatens both men and women, equally, in Afghanistan today.
There is a lot of propaganda in the international, and local media that Afghanistan is a based on tribalism. Why do you think Afghanistan is passive as such and what can be the solution to such propagandas in future?
Well, I think the difference between Afghanistan, other nationalities and ethnic groups is its strength. It’s always good to have differences because differences always pave a way for development. If everybody thinks the same way and if there are no challenges and competitions then there will be no development. So, I think our differences are our strength.
How do you see the incumbent Ghani led coalition or national government?
Well, Afghanistan has been facing a lot of challenges after the 2014 presidential election. The country was about to be divided due to political differences. And there were chances of Afghanistan falling back if we had not agreed on forming a national unity government. Forming a national unity government gave us a chance to bring Afghanistan back on its feet. Different parties, different groups came together to form the government. Ideally its always good to have one party rule because then things move forward quickly. But, because we are not living in an ideal situation there was and is no other alternative the incumbent national unity government.
The International community is concerned about the negotiation with the Taliban. What’s your view on negotiation with the Taliban?
Well, I will speak on this as a woman. In the 21st century, you cannot any exclude women from any negotiations. Specially in this case because during Taliban rule, women were the most affected. They were deprived of education and of basic human rights. Thus it’s important that women are included in this negotiation, this is the first thing. The second thing that should be considered during the discussion is taking concerns of different political groups because the inability to do so will trigger mistrust among them and may lead them into thinking that the Taliban might come to power. Due to this they will subsequently loose their interest.
Peace is the first thing we need and to ensure that it is important to bring the national consensus and national agreement in negotiating with the Taliban. Otherwise, our neighboring country will continue to infuriate the situation in Afghanistan.
What is the condition of media freedom and freedom of expression like in Afghanistan?
I think this is one of the biggest achievements of the Karzai government over the past 13 years. The freedom of media, and freedom of speech has been good. Nobody was prosecuted for their stance and commentaries on political events during the period. I believe in humanity, equality, that every human being in this world regardless of their religious belief, regardless of their sex, regardless of the language they speak, are all equal. The differences are the colors of humanity and they should be respected equally. I suffer for being a woman, for being a female, for my skin color, and for my religious belief and as a human being I don’t want anyone to suffer in this world.
I am asking you some small questions, just give me a few comments.
Pakistan: An opportunity for Afghanistan but still a trouble.
Iran: The same
Turkmenistan: We need to strengthen our relationship with them.
Uzbekistan: A good neighbor but we haven’t used their neighborhood to our interest.
President Ghani: A very smart guy but needs to be a realistic. He is a perfectionist.
Afghanistan: It is a country full of resources, full of opportunity. But it could be a country of trouble-makers.
Women rights: Women rights in Afghanistan have advanced , it is now 100 years ahead.
As a mother do you have a message for children across the globe?
As a mother I am in Norway today. Norway is the best country in the world to be a mother and Afghanistan is the worst country in the world to be a mother. I hope one day with the support of our partners, we will also make Afghanistan the best country in the world to be in as a mother.
My last question is, do you have some special message for the hundreds of journalists now imprisoned under totalitarian regimes like Cuba, Kazakhstan, Iran and Pakistan? And do you have a message to these totalitarian regimes?
Politicians should not be afraid of the media because by saying what you are doing and are supposed to do, the media actually helps in finding you supporters and opponents. So, don’t be afraid of opponents. Let people oppose your idea and let journalists relay your message and ideas to the public.
All Rights Reserved with The Oslo Times