Describe your workshop/presentation (300-500 words):
Afghanistan is a patriarchal society where men always had power over women; men have high level privileges to which women are not entitled. This brought up many challenges in the Afghan society like increasing level of poverty, existence of different types of violence against women, gender inequality, economy reduction, and no inclusion of women in decision making process.
Investing in women’s economic empowerment sets a direct path towards gender equality, poverty eradication and inclusive economic growth. Women make enormous contributions to economies, whether in businesses, on farms, as entrepreneurs or employees, or by doing unpaid care work at home.
But they also remain disproportionately affected by poverty, discrimination and exploitation. Gender discrimination means women often end up in insecure, low-wage jobs, and constitute a small minority of those in senior positions. It curtails access to economic assets such as land and loans. It limits participation in shaping economic and social policies. And, because women perform the bulk of household work, they often have little time left to pursue economic opportunities.
Many international commitments support women’s economic empowerment in Afghanistan, including the Beijing Platform for Action, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women and a series of International Labor Organization conventions on gender equality.
Therefore, it is needed to promote women’s ability to secure decent jobs, accumulate assets, and influence institutions and public policies determining growth and development. One critical area of focus involves advocacy to measure women’s unpaid care work, and to take actions so women and men can more readily combine it with paid employment.
Suraya Pakzad, one of TIME’s 100 most influential people in 2009, and the founder of Voice of Women Organization (VWO) grew up during the years of armed resistance against the Soviet-backed government in Afghanistan. She earned a bachelor’s degree in Literature from Kabul University in 1992. She also obtained Honorary Associate of Arts degree by the Burlington County College as well as Honorary Degree of Doctorate from University of Pennsylvania, United States (2010). She is currently the student of master in Public Management and Leadership.
In 1998, she set up covert schools for girls under the oppressive rule of Taliban, keeping a gallon of kerosene in the classroom to burn the books if raided by Taliban and she established the Voice of Women Organization (VWO) in 2001 that provides direct protection to women and girls at the risk of gender based violence in Afghanistan and focuses on education, women’s rights awareness, and advocacy.