"We try to engage women in political participation"
Each year, more than 80 young professionals change their work place as participants in the CrossCulture Programme: Over a period of two to three months, they get to know the work routine in a different cultural setting. Most of them are from countries that are predominantly influenced by Islam, like Mohammed Elias Hatimi from Afghanistan. In this interview he talks about his commitment to the Afghan Women’s Network, women’s role in society and his approach to improve the current situation.
Interview by Franziska Lengerer
ifa (Institut für Auslandsbeziehungen): How would you describe your home country Afghanistan?
Elias: I think my country could be characterized with the words hospitality and respectfulness. Being together and living together is very important for people in Afghanistan. With my work, I am trying to contribute to these aspects and especially increase respect between all groups of society.
ifa: Could you tell us more about your work?
Elias: I am a civil society activist, a citizen journalist, and a women’s rights activist. Currently, I am working at Afghan Women’s Network (AWN), the only network for women in Afghanistan that works on women’s political participation and leadership, as well as their social and legal protection. In Afghanistan, there are lots of cases of violence or injustice that were not covered by the media. I am trying to open these cases and publish them through all platforms that I am engaged with. As women make up half of our community, positive development cannot be possible without them. They have the right to educate themselves, to work, and to be engaged in social and political arenas. I was lucky to get a job at AWN which enables me to bring their stories to the government and the international community.
ifa: What does the Afghan Women’s Network do to strengthen women in society?
Elias: One of our priorities is security. We try to engage women as peace-makers and involve them in such discussions in Afghanistan. In order to improve the social and legal protection of women, we are conducting trainings on awareness for members of the government and regularly launch research reports that address recommendations regarding women’s role. Besides, AWN tries to engage and to involve women in political participation, and we think that women should play a key role in the environmental sector. We are very proud that we now have four female ministers in our governmental party.
ifa: Do you feel like there are people in your society opposing this?
Elias: Actually, women in Afghanistan have a good social stand and society really has respect for women. On a bus for example, most men would give up their seat if a woman was standing. But factors like poverty, low economic status, lack of education and illiteracy create problems for families, and sometimes trigger violence against women. The challenge is to fight poverty and illiteracy in order to strengthen acceptance for women in all parts of our society.
ifa: Earlier in this conversation you mentioned that you also work as citizen journalist. Can you explain this concept and what it means to you?
Elias: Citizen journalism stands for citizens who act as journalists. They get in touch with the government and other stakeholders to raise awareness for their problems, their needs and their challenges. This concept is new in Afghanistan, and together with Prime News Page I am trying to conduct training workshops on citizen journalism in order to engage youth in media activities. My work as citizen journalist of course also provides me with another platform to talk about women’s rights and other important issues of our society. Now I am looking forward to contributing to the work of European Youth4Media, and getting inspired for future projects in Afghanistan.
ifa: Thank you for these interesting insights.