(see this post for more information on this book)
In many ways Veiled Courage is a nearly three-hundred page advertisement for RAWA -- Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan. Among other topics, author Cheryl Benard interviews women involved in the organization and shares how this group is able to recruit members.
|Meena - the martyred founder of RAWA continues to inspire|
Unlike some feminist groups who seem to have little use for men, RAWA has embraced the help of men. It recognizes that men's thinking needs changing in order for society to change in favor of women's equality. In fact RAWA influences the next generation of Afghani men by providing free education for boys as well as girls! I really like their approach because the people seem genuinely inclusive of all. When men showed up for a literacy class offered for their wives, RAWA graciously found funding and teachers for a men's class. If the men wanted to learn to read, they were OK with this.
RAWA's male supporters include young men who grew up in both jihadi and RAWA-run schools and orphanages. I was heartened to read interviews with three young men who supported the organization and lent their assistance for the cause by sometimes pretending to be mahrams for women who needed to travel for the group or by smuggling videos and pictures of Taliban abuse to Pakistan where this information could be spread to the West.
Actually I was pleasantly surprised because a number of Afghani men were supportive of this group and furthering women's rights. The RAWA ladies often married supportive men who took care of children and the house so their wives could be involved in their political causes. The women referred to these husbands as their "beautiful companions." Indeed it was encouraging to read of such men!
|When does their fight become our fight also?|
Sometimes on blogs I read comments along the lines of: why do you Westerners speak out about this traditional thing in our society that you happen to not like? Usually this is in the context of giving women more rights. Occasionally it is the women telling us to mind our own business. Yet there are others in these same countries speaking out for their rights and desiring change. The author posed a question on a website about how women from around the world got to know about RAWA and how they supported the organization. I didn't copy their replies in full, but took only a sampling of that which spoke the most to me.
"It's interesting that countries don't think they are interfering in other cultures when they engage in trade, or push their products and hence their lifestyle. They only start worrying about culture when it comes to treatment of women. The world is becoming more and more interdependent, and basic human rights should be implemented in the whole world."
~ Vijayashree, India
"Interventionism? If there happened to be a cannibalistic society on earth and they started eating their neighbors, would we say it's just their culture and it's okay? The Taliban were devouring Afghan women. It would be cruel and unjust for anyone to stay silent about an oppressive culture."
~ Parvin, Iranian-American
"I consider nonviolent fighting for human rights, including women's rights and democracy, to be beyond cultural differences. These are global rights for global citizens. For a long time, a lot of Danes have been suffering from mysophobia when it came to interfering with other cultures. We have been too lazy and too afraid of being disrespectful. ... The generation before me fought for women's rights here in Denmark. Now it's our turn and the scene is set outside Denmark, that's all."
~ Marianne, Denmark
"When women cry out for help, because they have been robbed of all their human rights, then it is our human duty to try our best to be of help for them!"
~ Nina, Germany
What do you think about getting involved in other countries? Do you agree with Nina, Marianne, Vijayashree, and Parvin? When it is OK to speak out against things we perceive as injustices and when should we allow cultures to do what they have always done and not mess with "tradition"? Where do we draw the line?
What about religious groups (as opposed to cultural/national ones)? What about when, say, Muslim Feminists want to speak out on behalf of Muslim women around the world who aren't getting the rights from men/society/culture that Islam gave them? Is it OK for Jewish or Hindu ladies to work on behalf of this cause or should this task be left with Muslim women since it is their religion and thus their battle to fight within their own faith?
Was it surprising to learn that many Afghan men support women's rights? What did you think of the quote from Teema at the very top concerning young men who are impressed with the fact women can learn? Do you think RAWA's approach to educating boys is a good idea? Or should all their funding go to help girls and women?
If you live in a society/religion where you feel oppressed or many around you feel they are, what do you think we should do? How best can we outsiders help? Should we leave things alone because you believe true change comes from within society only? Suggestions?
Any other thoughts?