Women’s Rights Club, a project with Foundation of Solidarity for Justice, Afghanistan
This project was implemented by the Foundation of Solidarity for Justice (FSJ), an organisation that has been working in Afghanistan to promote human rights, especially the rights of victims from the conflicts of the past three decades. Women’s Rights Club is FSJ’s new initiative to bring together people from different sectors of society to discuss controversial issues related to Afghan women’s rights within tradition and religion, and to raise public awareness about their rights, including rights to inheritance and property. The project reached men and women in high schools, universities, and local communities. FSJ addressed the following issues:
- Lack of awareness of rights
- Stigmatization of women who challenge traditional practices and seek legal ways to access their inheritance
- Forced marriages of widows to their brothers-in-law for custody of the women’s children and the property of the deceased husband, with expulsion and dispossession of the women who refuse to marry their brothers-in-law
- Lack of support by the police and the judiciary, with the police often encouraging women to withdraw their claims for inheritance
- Lack of knowledge by the women of any source of assistance and support
In the first phase of the project, FSJ adopted the key strategy of raising awareness of men and women about women’s right to inheritance as provided by the Quran and Hadiths, particularly the Hanafi school of legal interpretations that prevails in Afghanistan.Although women’s rights are protected by the new Afghanistan Constitution and the Convention for the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), which the Afghan government has signed, FSJ anchored the discourse on women’s rights in progressive religious interpretations, so as to provide an alternative to men’s production of disempowering interpretations as the only version of “religion.” FSJ felt that any discussion of women’s rights based only on human rights standards and instruments would provoke a huge backlash, with women becoming too scared to engage with anything labelled as against “anti-religious.” In implementing this strategy, FSJ tapped the expertise of supportive religious scholars, who were able to answer questions about women’s rights in Islam, thereby contradicting disempowering interpretations for both women and men.
In the second phase of the project, FSJ convinced the Ministry of Interior in Afghanistan to cooperate in organising awareness raising workshops for about 80 middle ranking police officers (men and women) in different police divisions. The police play a key role the first point of contact for women who are seeking assistance for filing complaints to access their inheritance and property.