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International Women’s Day Brings Unity, Call for Peace

By Jean Duggan Capt., Zabul Provincial Reconstruction Team

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QALAT, Afghanistan (March 11, 2008) — On March 8, nearly 100 Afghan women gathered together to celebrate International Women’s Day in Zabul province. The day was a stepping stone in the fight to advance women’s rights; less than a decade ago, Afghan women were restricted to the home unless escorted by a male family member.

The event began with a reading of an article in the Holy Quran, followed by speeches and gifts for those women who attended the celebration as well as 30 patients in Qalat Provincial Hospital.

“Congratulations to all of you on International Women’s Day,” said Rahima, Director of Women’s Affairs. “Three decades of war affected our women–They lost their children, their husbands, and their brothers. We don’t want to see that again.”

The director asked for the support of Ullamahs (Afghan Islamic scholars) and the national and international community in a quest for peace. In addition, she asked for continued progress, schools and democracy for women.

Zahir Sha, head of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan read a statement from UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon:

“The UN is celebrating this day together with you,” said Zahir. “Women have made progress–they go to school and are members of parliament. In order to have a great nation, we need women and men together, and we need them to provide support to each other.”

After the speeches, Rahima and government, UNAMA and U.S. Agency for International Development representatives handed out gifts to each woman who attended the celebration. The event concluded with several local women visiting the Qalat Provincial Hospital to visit female patients and hand out additional gifts.