In a highly conservative, male-dominated society like Afghanistan, women and girls are often treated like second-class citizens. Most everyone is painfully familiar with stories of how the Taliban treated women and prevented girls from attending school during their rule, however, even today, when girls and women have the right to attend school, seek jobs, vote, and become productive citizens, there remain many regions of the country where girls and women are routinely harassed, hit and abused by boys and men without a second thought.
HTAC's peace education and conflict resolution programs in schools and local communities are working to stop this cycle of abuse by educating boys and men that treating girls and women with honor and respect is not only consistent with the teachings of Islam, but demonstrates real strength (for males) and is beneficial for the community as a whole.
Our school program helps boys (who have often been the victims of violence and bullying themselves), deal with their anger and fear, learn how to forgive others, build self-esteem, and teach them the values of peace and cooperation. A key element is teaching boys to respect girls and women; that as males, they have a special responsibility to honor, respect their rights and to protect them from harassment or abuse by other boys and even men.
In the community, we often begin by educating and gaining the support of local male leaders to not only to honor and respect women, but also help them understand how women can contribute to a more peaceful, cooperative community as a whole by providing their unique perspectives; that there is value in allowing women to participate in community meetings and become decision-making partners along with men.
The educational process is sometimes long and there are no quick solutions, however (for initiatives lasting over a year), HTAC has seen a steady, consistent reduction of harassment and abuse (against girls and women) in schools, homes and communities compared to orginal baseline results. In addition, there are positive indicators of greater cooperation between men and women, increased involvement of women in local community affairs, reduced aggressive conflict between families and more stabilized communities.
HTAC is especially gratified to see many boys and men (former abusers of girls and women) become some of our strongest advocates for the protection of women and their rights.
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