Sahadat Karimi walks to the stage, past the sofas where officials are seated, and retrieves a large colorful parcel from the hands of Herat's director of the Department of Women Affairs (DWA). She pauses, briefly smiles to the cameras, and returns to her seat. The ceremony lasted for just a few seconds but the religion teacher is proud to be acknowledged by her community.
To celebrate mother's day recently, Herat's DWA gathered government officials, religious leaders, influential community members and international actors to the governor's office in the center of Herat city. The opportunity is seized to further advance sensitivity to gender equality, and draw attention to the achievements of women leaders from Herat.
Sahadat Karimi was not aware of her impending recognition. Ill prepared for happy events, she tells her life of violence and hardship: “I lost my husband when he fought the Russian occupation. My four children and I then migrated to Iran as refugees. I started teaching to support my family. At the time, I did four shifts a day to increase my income.”
After the Russians left, Ms Karimi returned to Afghanistan. “During the Taliban government, I could not teach. I had to return to Iran as a refugee,” explains the 41-year-old mother. After the fall of the Taliban, she returned to Herat and started teaching again, this time at Tajrobawi high school, one of the best institutes in town.
If the hardships Sahadat Karimi had faced are too commonly shared in the Afghan society, her strength remains an example. Before leaving the gathering, she merely declared: “I worked really hard in the past to raise my children. Now I know our situation is better since we can all stand on our own feet.”
Herat DWA head Manijah Saddiq calls for a wider role for women: “Peace, security, reconstruction; the welfare of the Afghan nation cannot be reached only with hard work by our brothers. To reach peace and stability will also require tireless effort by mothers and sisters.”
A similar ceremony was held in Gardez City by the Paktya DWA, with department head Haleema Khazan urging the Government and non-government organizations to provide mothers with employment opportunities, saying that economic self-sufficiency can greatly contribute in better living conditions.
At the same event, Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) representative Zarmina Shams stressed that “a society cannot develop where women have not been provided opportunity to work side by side with their men.”