I feel like I have taken a small but significant step towards a little airport-based rebellion. Afghanistan has in many ways, a gender apartheid. Women and men are at all times kept separate from one another. As if some brushing of shoulders would contaminate either sex. So I have decided to briefly break the great divide and sit in what looks like an unofficial male waiting area, to infiltrate the men’s club. I get some very odd looks. Most assume I’m just a silly foreigner who doesn’t know what is and isn’t acceptable. But unless we take small actions to challenge things we won’t change them. Soon other women start sitting in the seats around me and within 30 minutes we have a fairer distribution of women and men filling the waiting area seats as opposed to women loitering around the edges of the waiting area wishing God had granted them a penis so that they could sit before their flight.
I recently made a speech to young Afghans who are working on increased female political participation. The crux of my argument was this: rights are not given, they are fought for. If you look at the history of women’s rights then every single improvement has required a fight, a battle, whether by the individual or by the collective.
It is when we start to accept inequalities, slight encroachments on our choices and liberties that our rights will diminish, our power will diminish, and ultimately, we will diminish. Whether it’s agreeing to stop working because our husband asks us to; unquestioningly accepting that the men around us get promoted whilst we don’t; ignoring that in meetings there are more men than women; or doing all the house chores without a fair 50% input from our partner. In order to progress and be who we can be, we need to take a stand whenever and wherever we can, in whatever form we can.