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Title: One Thousand and One Afghan Nights: An Analysis of Women’s Rights in Contemporary Afghanistan
Authors: Gross, Sarah
Advisors: Barry, Michael
Department: Woodrow Wilson School
Class Year: 2015
Abstract: In Afghanistan, since the fall of the Taliban government in 2001, there have been some decided gains for women, but much remains to be done. Today more women go to school, work or hold public office, but other women continue to be systematically abused, raped and murdered often by their own male family members, with females complicit. As Scheherazade of One Thousand and One Arabian Nights tells her story to the king each night to save her life, this thesis, One Thousand and One Afghan Nights, looks to uncover the stories of marginalized Afghan women, in turn, to help save their lives through urging international and national awareness. While every year in Afghanistan has been a test, 2015 is an especially important year for Afghan women’s rights. The U.S.-NATO mission officially ended on December 31, 2014; however, U.S. presence will continue through the end of 2016, as was decided in talks between Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and U.S. President Barack Obama in late March 2015. The continued U.S. military presence in Afghanistan is important to protect the established gains in women’s rights, as the security situation remains tenuous. In 2014 accusations of fraud in the presidential election voting forced a nationwide recount, and a heated debate over leadership. The solution, a power sharing agreement instituted between President Ghani and runner-up, CEO, Abdullah Abdullah remains precarious. Furthermore, Taliban power has expanded. Given these instabilities, 2015 is a time to reaffirm commitment to Afghan women’s rights; it is a time to prevent potential rollbacks and to work to maintain and expand upon the progress made. Although there is a desire to find a silver bullet solution to uplift Afghan women, this paper argues that the process must be more organic. I first address ongoing problems for women in the country. I then draw lessons from the progress of past Afghan women’s rights movements and look at the current conditions in rural Afghanistan, which still make it difficult to improve women’s rights. With this information in hand, my thesis reflects on what measures might work best to advocate for Afghan women’s rights today. From my research and interviews, I submit several suggestions to maintain gains for women’s rights in the last fourteen years, and to expand upon them. I argue that work towards women’s rights in Afghanistan should move beyond legislation, and continue to support education for both girls and boys. I further contend that although foreign intervention can at times help, such as how foreign press has, at times, raised Afghan national awareness, generally Afghans should undertake their women’s rights initiatives themselves. To build upon gains for women in Afghanistan, it is critical not only to engage Afghan women, but also Afghan men. Spending resources on Afghan males involved in improving women’s status, should not be seen as a diversion of funds, but rather an investment. To date, the work for Afghan women’s rights has been most successful within cities, but has struggled to expand further. Given the challenges of implementing gender reform in rural areas, it is likely to be more effective to promote women’s rights efforts in urban centers and to let this change cascade gradually to increasingly rural areas. With this thesis I wish to contribute a starting platform from which to work towards women’s rights; however, I by no means imply to offer a comprehensive list of suggestions. In conclusion, although there are many pressing matters in Afghanistan from terrorist threats to the faltering economy, it continues to be important to remember that work towards Afghan gender equity is equally urgent.
Extent: 126 pages
Type of Material: Princeton University Senior Theses
Language: en_US
Appears in Collections:Woodrow Wilson School, 1929-2017

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