On the occasion of their visit to Italy, we had the opportunity to meet Selay Ghaffar, executive director of Humanitarian Assistance for Women and Children of Afghanistan (HAWCA), together with Cristiana Cella, journalist and member of the Coordinamento Italiano Sostegno Donne Afghane – CISDA (Italian Coordination Unit Support for Afghan Women – CISDA). They spoke about the project Precious Lives, which aims to support Afghan women victims of violence, through a method similar to adoption at a distance.
A sponsor’s contribution (50 or 25 EUR per month, or a one-time contribution) can change the life of an Afghan woman in a radical way: it can save a little girl from a forced marriage, or a woman from suicide, from forced prostitution, from illiteracy or disease, from physical violence and sexual abuse.
Time For Equality, in line with its objective of promoting specific projects and actions, has decided to support this project, considering it as particularly valuable for the direct link between the local organization and the beneficiaries, and for the immediate effects that it produces. We also appreciate the value of the project in terms of raising awareness, because the violence suffered by women in Afghanistan is as systematic as it is little-known.
First with the Russian invasion, and then with the Taliban regime, notes Cristiana Cella, the area of freedom for Afghan women has gradually narrowed, as has their enjoyment of basic human rights. With the collapse of the Taliban regime in 2001, gender-based violence has spread, assuming many forms, from domestic violence to sexual abuse, from forced marriages of girls to the legal violence of not being acknowledged by any form of justice. Although there are laws on the subject, in fact, police and judges ensure impunity to perpetrators of violence and abuse.
Violence against women in Afghanistan is a phenomenon on the agenda: it is common in homes, in communities, in schools, in the streets, in the offices of police, in the courts, in the institutions, and it is exacerbated by an environment of brutality generated by the war and tolerated by the state and institutions. Outside Afghanistan’s borders, very few know about this unacceptable state of fear, violence and injustice; the battlefield where the women of this country live is generally silent and underestimated by the international press. Yet, as the experience of the Precious Lives project attests, journalism can make a valuable contribution to the action of militants and activists, such as Selay, who are risking their lives to enforce human rights.
The Precious Lives project was created in 2011 following the publication in the Italian daily newspaper l’Unità of the stories of Afghan women who were guests of a shelter run by HAWCA in Kabul. Moved by these testimonies, some readers started writing to the editor of the newspaper, proposing to help these women by offering a monthly support, a kind of adoption. HAWCA and Legal Aid Centres have been collecting stories of other women in serious difficulties, which have been published on the website of l’Unità, creating a bridge between the sponsor and the women victims of violence.
Over its two years of existence, the project has garnered positive results, thanks to its immediacy, which enables the project to take direct action in accordance with the specific needs of the individual woman, girl or child. With a small monthly amount you can offer them often-denied medical care, education or even the possibility of having a little autonomy to exit a context of violence. The re-entry into society by women who have fled from their homes or who are divorced is, in fact, a very delicate step. Women who run away, who have been sexually abused or ill-treated, are often considered guilty; in many cases the victims’ families reject them and consider them a disgrace. As if that were not enough, it is even more difficult for a woman to live alone; therefore, means to achieve economic autonomy and to start a business are an invaluable aid, which enables these women to take custody of their children and not be at the mercy of their relatives.
Direct aid made possible by the Precious Lives project is even more urgent in a climate in which, as selay recounts, work in shelters is daily de-legitimized and placed under constant attack. In Afghanistan, those who defend women’s rights, questioning the patriarchal logic of honour, are constantly at risk and must deal with countless forms of resistance in their daily work.
To receive more information on and / or support the project, please write to firstname.lastname@example.org
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