International Women’s Day: a hard-won day of celebration in Afghanistan

Health Partners International of Canada is implementing a multi-year project in Afghanistan to increase access to medicines and to build the capacity of the Afghan Ministry of Public Health, with a special focus on the needs of women and children.

Julia Wight, acting Senior Director of the project, was in Kabul on International Women’s Day this year. “March 8th was spoken about by men and women with such admiration and interest. I was overwhelmed by the largesse of this day, particularly as it is celebrated in a country that must work hard and fight daily to maintain the progress of women’s rights,” she said. “This is a country where women are not protected by law, a country with the second highest maternal mortality rate in the world, and a country where only 15% of girls attend elementary school.”

A party was held at HPIC’s field office in Kabul “to honour Afghan women who are continuing to push through and build themselves up.” There was cake and dried fruit and discussion about women’s issues worldwide.

One of HPIC’s Afghan staff members described her experience of the day: “My family buys each other gifts and says ‘congratulations’ or ‘Happy Women’s Day’ to each other. The most exciting part is that the male members of our family cook and invite all the females for lunch or dinner.”

For her, Women’s Day is “a big movement for women – no matter where these women are from. I consider it the final stage of women’s empowerment, which will shape society and the world. It is a day to remember and to celebrate.”

She would like to see the number of women involved in the project increased, as HPIC’s project is “providing equal opportunities to both men and women.”