Afghan Women Muster Courage to Escape Domestic Violence
Newly-married and pregnant Amena recently took the bold step of leaving her violent husband. She is among the millions of Afghan women for whom life has improved over the past decade. Today, more women are able to access services, like legal aid, participate in decision-making, and more girls are enrolled in school than a decade ago.
To escape her violent situation, Amena found support through a local women's legal help centre – a new government initiative supported by UNDP.
Fatima Rezaie is a young volunteer paralegal at the centre and since it opened in November 2011. 25 volunteers have provided legal advice and counseling to more than 200 women who struggle with forced or early marriage and domestic violence.
'Amena's husband was using narcotics so she did not agree to live with him, she wanted a divorce,' Fatima says.
Fatima counseled Amena in more than half a dozen sessions, often visiting the family at home. Her priority was Amena's personal safety. She spoke with her colleagues, including a provincial coordinator supported by UNDP, and offered Amena a place in the center's shelter for abused women.
- Some 1,600 religious leaders have been trained in different provinces on women's rights to participate in public and economic life.
- 25 volunteers have provided legal advice and counseling to more than 200 women who struggle with forced or early marriage and domestic violence.
- Amena, to escape her violent situation, found support through a local women's legal help centre – a new government initiative support by UNDP
With UNDP support, the centre's staff are given basic legal training and counseling, and taught to resolve conflict or refer disputes to other community groups or government departments. Fatima volunteers as a counselor because she wants to strengthen women's rights in Afghanistan, which she says have been undermined by three decades of civil war.
UNDP supports the government and civil society to extend justice and legal aid to even more women. A Women's Policy Development Center was established at the Ministry of Women's Affairs to ensure all ministries devise strategies that take into consideration the needs of women.
Through this effort some 1,600 religious leaders have been trained in different provinces on women's rights to participate in public and economic life. UNDP has also extended its support to Provincial Councils, vital democratically-elected entities that oversee essential public services at the local level, and frequently resolve challenges of gender and development, such as forced and early marriage, or divorce.
Amena is still living in the shelter. She has learned to sew, and says she will stay at the shelter until her 'problem' is solved.
Most importantly, Amena says her baby is safe, and she is happy.