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International Women Day for an Afghan Woman In the 21st Century...

From my home, and most other homes I know a little bit about, I don’t remember anything about International Women Day. But, from the time when I was small, I remember a book titled 8th March. I used to look at the cover picture of the book for a long time and feel sorry for the women whose one eye and part of her face was bruised. This image was the image of 8th march for me at the time when I did not even know what it was like to be a woman, and for me to be an AFGHAN woman.

I wish I had something inspiring to tell about the way International Women’s Day look like in my community most people do not even know that there is something which belongs to them. In my community at least even a day does not belong to women. Only two years ago, there was a celebration on International Women’s Day and it was the politicians who celebrated it. Even I cannot call it a celebration but would rather say that Women’s Day was used as a business opportunity for those politicians: the leaders of my community. They gave lunch and one headscarf to each woman who joined the celebration not as a gift to them as women on their day but to trade meal and ‘scarf’ with vote. They sold scarfs to them on their day in exchange with votes. So, International Women’s Day was a day for Afghan women to get one more scarf but for the politician an opportunity to get more votes by getting votes: the votes that have newly gotten got a small share in the big decisions of their community, their life. I, as an Afghan woman, got a message from this which was that what we should think of is the scarf and covering ourselves and letting all the decision in their hand, who are MEN. Even if they didn’t say it directly, on my day by their action they told me, “get this scarf, hide your hair, and stay at home as a ‘women’. How could I count it respect and love for women on their only one special day in the whole year of 365 days? In my community IWD is the one more scarf which is gifted to me as a one more chain that keeps me at home, a gift of being more controlled. On their day women were gifted by limitation in my society. At first there is not Women Day and if there is, that’s how it looks like.

Today, 8th march of 2012, on International Women Day, my day, the president of my country presents a gift to Afghan women on their day that they are the ‘second-class citizens’ of Afghanistan. Today is my day and what I come to know on my day is that I am not the full citizen of the place I think I belong to. I am the ‘second-class citizen’ because I am women and it is the gift of my day. I feel like it is a slap and A SLAP is gifted to me and every woman of Afghanistan on their day, on my day as a women from KARZAI, the president of my country. That is what it looks like…


jadefrank's picture

a slap in the face

Dearest Rabia,

You are a bold, courageous young woman. I am deeply moved by your voice, your power, your truth. Now I know what IWD looks like in your community. And this image—of women receiving headscarves from politicians, of this symbol of oppression, this slap in the face—this image is burned into my mind as it so powerfully illustrates the situation for women in your country. Thank you Rabia for speaking out so boldly and telling your story and the story of women across your country.

It makes me wonder, if you could organize a celebration that truly honors women in your country, what would it look like? And how can we let women in your country know that we are behind you, behind them?

In friendship and solidarity,

rabia.salihi's picture

Thanks Dear Jade,

No desire to open my mouth
What should I sing of...?
I, who am hated by life.
No difference to sing or not to sing.
Why should I talk of sweetness,
When I feel bitterness?
Oh, the oppressor's feast
Knocked my mouth.
I have no companion in life
Who can I be sweet for?
No difference to speak, to laugh,
To die, to be.
Me and my strained solitude.
With sorrow and sadness.
I was borne for nothingness.
My mouth should be sealed.
Oh my heart, you know it is spring
And time to celebrate.
What should I do with a trapped wing,
Which does not let me fly?
I have been silent too long,
But I never forget the melody,
Since every moment I whisper
The songs from my heart,
Reminding myself of
The day I will break this cage,
Fly from this solitude
And sing like a melancholic.
I am not a weak poplar tree
To be shaken by any wind.
I am an Afghan woman,
It only makes sense to moan

A poem by Nadia Anjoman
Translated by Mahnaz Badihian


To an Afghan woman on her day,

Your day,
Your day is the day when,
You are proud
Proud to be you,
A woman,
Your day is the day when,
I see no longer a bruise on your face,
It is when,
You can show me your face,
A face that is not cut down
Not taken from you
But has nose and ears
The face that is yours
It is yours.
Your day is the day when I see you smiling
A smile that makes a bird
A bird with open wings
And then,
The world where you are you
You are not afraid to be you
This world is still afar
The journey to this world is still death
I wish your day be a day
When you can shout
Shout your voice
And say,
You are a woman
And you are not ashamed
Not a day when,
You are slapped to be silent
When this day comes,
It will be your day
And then,
I will come and say,
O’ woman
Happy being a woman,
Happy your day,
Happy my day,
And happy OUR day.


Jensine's picture

You are a beautiful poet

Dear Rabi -
Your poem is incredible - and your words will bring wings to the hearts of many women around the world - and yes, the women of your country. You are a powerful leader.. Hold your head high because - your day is coming, and the day for all the women of Afghanistan is coming.....

Jensine Larsen
World Pulse

rabia.salihi's picture

Thank You...

Dear Jensine,
Your words support me and gives me more power to held my head high because my day is coming, and when other women see me, it will support them to held their heads high because their day is coming. So, our day is coming, what we have to do is to start the journey with each other together.
Thank you so much.


emchamer's picture

Thank You


Thank you so much for sharing your story and part of your self with me. You have a gift with words! I have shared your poem with some friends of mine here in Portland, Oregon.

Your courage is a blessing, thank you!


jadefrank's picture

Happy day

This is a beautiful poem Rabi. So beautiful. Thank you for sharing this gift with us. This day will come, if we continue to speak out together.


irene waithaka's picture

Dear Rabia reading your

Dear Rabia
reading your article makes me want to cry coz ideally this is the one day in 365 days of an year that being a woman one is supposed to be recognized but its too sad to realise that some insensitive men use it ironically to disempower women in their day.
Bt all is not lost as theres still smone like you who has seen through their sheep skin the best you can do is spread ths gospel to your fellow women in afghanistan and use every opportunity you get to fight these aspects of negative masculinity n be rest assured that one day u will realise that your effort was not in vain.
With out most love
receive my warmest regards.

rabia.salihi's picture

Dear Irene,

Dear Irene,
Thank you so much for reading my article and realizing. I appreciate what you say and it gives more power to my heart when I see others who can understand.... and YES what we have to do is to appear so that our fellow women know that they are not alone....
Best Wishes,


Aliya Bashir's picture


Dear Rabia
Your story is tragic and the most unfortunate part is that the respect of a woman is ahead among all in the Islam, a head-scarf which is a sign of respect to cover the chastity has been brutally misused by the so-called protectors, they are the blot on the name of religion and freedom of expression.
All I can say is that Inshallah the day is not far when these culprits will get punished who are using women as per their own whims and wishes, they are more weird than wild beasts and i pity them
Sending you warms duas from Kashmir sister will pray for your independence Inshallah, dnt worry this time won't last. Stay Strong and be optimistic.
Happy women's Day, we are with you.


rabia.salihi's picture

I am not alone...

Dear Aliya,
Thank you so much to be with us. I, Afghan woman, is not alone.There are many people like Aliya Bashir who are with them.... This is the best thing you are standing beside me by encouraging me, and therefore every Afghan woman. Thank you for your understanding and standing.


Aliya Bashir's picture

Yes we are with you!

With each other we can withstand all odds Inshallah. Looking forward to hear more stories so that the entire world will come to know how cheaply people are using their power which is full of tragic.
Stay Safe


Maureen_Charles_Pasadena_CA_USA's picture

Keep writing Rabi

Your voice is beautiful and it is being heard.

Stella Paul's picture

Your voice is powerful

Dear Rabia

I just read this story. Its the most powerful story I have read so far on women of Afghanistan. I say most powerful because it is simple and there is such honesty - I felt it is coming from straight your heart. 'A day for women to get another scarf'- it made me cry. Even my story on the Women's day (on witches) has a dark subject and nothing to celebrate. So, I understand your pain. I too wish I had a happy subject to write about. But I also think that by writing this dark story, you are putting effort to bring a day of happiness. So keep it up my sister. A lot of love from India

Stella Paul
Twitter: @stellasglobe

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