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Social Media advocacy Empowered Afghan Women;Where Is My Name

The vast majority of Afghan women. The vast majority of Afghan women believe that including mothers’ names in Afghan National Identification or Tazkira is an official recognition of mothers’ identity in Afghanistan.

Calling women by their name is still a taboo in Afghanistan; therefore, women’s name was not included in their children’s birth certificates, national identifications, and passports. The traditional society and the conflict that lasted for almost half a century in Afghanistan made advocacy for women’s rights very challenging. Through social media, women in Afghanistan advocated tirelessly to add their names to their children’s National Identification, also called Tazkira in Afghanistan.

In Afghan society, Tazkira is an essential document for every official task and documentation matters. Including the mother’s name is considered critical and vital in Tazkira. Because hundreds of thousands of women lost their husbands due to the war and conflict, proving a child’s mom became a heated issue for both the government and women who want to travel or obtain documents for their children. Shazia 36, who lost her husband in an explosion in Kabul, said, “When I was registering my son in the school and requested Tazkira, the institution rejected me saying that I should bring a family man to obtain the document for him.”  Afghan Statistics authorities told Shazia that she could not be verified as her son’s guardian because children are not registered with their mothers’ names.
Najia Haneefi, a Graduate Administrator at Carleton University, mentioned that Afghan women encounter numerous difficulties. The mother’s names in Tazkira is one of the steps in reducing the burdens from Afghan women. “In the conservative society like Afghanistan, legal recognition of motherhood in the important documents such as Tazkira is critical and is considered the legal recognition of motherhood,” Najia Haneefi added. She acknowledged that this is an achievement for the Afghan women and will assist women in legal and custody disputes. Mrs. Haneefi believes that the inclusion of the mother’s names on the Tazkira can stand as a foundation for other laws that empower women and support women’s rights. She continued, “whenever there is a law or a decree passed and signed to support women’s rights, they enhance women’s status in the society; and Canada also went through these stages where women are now supported by the laws in every aspect of their life.” Mrs. Haneefi also emphasized that including mothers’ names in important documents was proposed in 2004 by The Women’s Political Participation Commission. 

Afghan women have been advocating for gender equality for years, but recently social media escalated the movement. Hashtag WhereIsMyName was a social media campaign that was initiated on Facebook and Twitter in 2017. The campaign was immediately supported by both women and men, which quickly spread widely within Afghans.
Women’s activist, author, and professor, Dr. Homeira Qaderi, said that the campaign initiated by men almost a decade before, by the name of Where Is My Mother’s Name, the idea was welcomed and supported by women. Men and women supported the idea from those areas that are rural areas and very traditional, like Khost and Bamiyan. “I was one of the activists who gathered with women to continue the conversation, lobbied in the media, and collectively we involved those official men who had decisive positions in the government because the majority of authorities were men.” She expressed with regrets that the Afghan government compromised because of the fragile situation in the country. Otherwise, the law is supposed to be obligatory in including the mother’s name, but now it is optional. “Because women in Afghan society are intentionally or unintentionally, systematically or unsystematically driven out and expelled from the society, therefore, mother’s name in Tazkira is an enormous step forward for the Afghan women’s status in the society,” Ms. Qaderi stated. Ms. Qaderi also stressed, “I wish the government made it mandatory to provide mothers’ names in the new electronic National Identification or Tazkira. ”
Current Afghan government particularity President Ghani is prized and criticized by the supporters and the oppositions for his bold move towards women’s empowerment. Countless young women are appointed in leadership positions, such as ministers, deputy ministers, advisors to the president, army and police management positions, deputy governors, mayors, and ambassadors. Furthermore, for the first time after decades of war in Afghanistan, President Ghani mentioned his wife’s name in his first inauguration speech in 2014. Because Ghani is from a conservative tribe, and for many people calling his spouse’s name was inspirational. After the #WhereIsMyName reach the president’s office, President Ghani signed the amendment in September 2020, allowing mothers’ names to be included in Tazkira. The decree was criticized by those who opposed the amendment, arguing that the law is un-Islamic and untraditional.
Opposing a mother’s name in documents or considering mothers’ names publicly un-Islamic can be argued in many ways. For instance, in the Islamic faith, numerous citations can be found in the Quran. He is the fourth Caliph of Islam, cousin and son-in-law of the Prophet Mohammad, and Hassan and Hussain’s father; therefore, Hazrat-e-Ali’s comment on his mother’s name is vital for both Sunni and Shiite followers in Islam faith.

Minister of Women’s Affairs Hasina Safi congratulated the initiators of the campaign. She said that the decree would empower mothers with their legal status and identity in Afghan society. She also highlighted that more awareness is required to inform citizens about the importance and necessity of the mother’s name in the documents.
On the other hand, Member of Parliament, and former Afghan Ambassador to Canada, Shinkai Karokhail said that the decree should be included in the parliamentary legal proposal to strengthen the amendment. Ms. Karokhail added that we lobbied in the parliament despite some opposition from other members. She also said that we supported the movement, and we were able to arrange a meeting between women activists and Parliament Speaker. Ms. Karokhail explained that it is a legislative decree; “I am concerned it will be faced with some challenges in the parliament as the legislation of Elimination of Violence Against Women was rejected.” 

Succeeding social media movement #WhereIsMyName can be a symbolic step forward in the society that faced decades of war and facing catastrophic security challenges every day. In the circumstances that Afghan women see their social status fragile with exhausting and overwhelming prolonged Taliban and Afghan Government negotiations. The support that women received both from the public and the authorities can be comforting, optimistic but is far from the assurance on women’s rights in Afghanistan. 

Calling women’s or mothers’ name is common in rural and urban areas and is not un-traditional. Countless people are known by their mothers’ names in our families, communities, villages, and neighborhoods. Numerous places and institutions are named after women in Afghanistan decades and even centuries ago, like, Malalia Zhijantoon, Rabia Balkhi Hospital, Tapi Bibi Mahro, Gawhar Shad Tawers, Lese Mariam, Aino Maina Town, and countless high schools are named after women. Afghans should ask themselves, is the tradition of our religion and faith that not allowed women’s and mother’s names to be expressed publicly? Or the status of women in Afghanistan needs a thorough, multidimensional, and profound review?

View expressed in this article are of the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Pajhwok’s editorial policy.


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