KABUL, Afghanistan — A mullah who raped a 10-year-old girl in his mosque was sentenced to 20 years in prison after a dramatic trial here in Kabul on Saturday during which his accuser, weeping and shaking, summoned the courage to confront him.
Women’s activists attending the packed proceedings hailed the sentence as a victory because the mullah was successfully prosecuted under a 2009 law meant to fight violence against women in a country where rape had long been treated as adultery, implicitly placing partial blame on the victim. The judge in this case dismissed the mullah’s Shariah law defense.
In addition, intervention by Women for Afghan Women, a group that had earlier sheltered the girl, persuaded the victim’s family members to support her. The group paid her family’s travel expenses from their home in the remote province of Kunduz, where the crime occurred, so they could attend the trial.
From the piece in the New York Times by Rod Nordland on October 19, 2014:
Bartered Away at Age 5, Now Trying to Escape to a Life She Chooses
"Women for Afghan Women (which) is the largest private organization in Afghanistan operating shelters and other facilities for women in crisis."
As co-founder, board member and full-time volunteer for WAW, I can say without any hesitation that WAW is an incredibly empowering space for all the women, children and men we serve as well as those of us who work and volunteer there; WAW advocates tirelessly and boldly for the human rights of Afghans; and the work I do in WAW has been the most meaningful and the most humbling in my life.
Women for Afghan Women is a 12 year old human rights organization which is saving and transforming lives across Afghanistan and in New York. I am honored to be a co-founder of this organization, and a full-time volunteer. I am so very proud of WAW because we have been bold -- when no one else will take on a case or a controversial position, we will stick our necks out because it is the right thing to do. We walk a fine line between a commitment to women's human rights and a commitment to local Afghan community -- we are able to be unwaveringly true to both these commitments! WAW has been in the international news for our care (shelter, medical care, legal representation) of the following high profile cases: Bibi Aisha, Mumtaz, Sahar Gul, Gul Meena.
I became aware of this charity from my husband who works for the United States Government in Afghanistan. He has had the opportunity to actually visit one of the facilities that house children in Mazar e Shariff whos Afghan mothers are serving a sentence in an Afghan prison. He shared with me there are about ninety children living there. Once my husband and and I began to understand the plight of the Afghan women and even greater the innocence of their children, it touched our hearts to give to this children's shelter. My husband has said out of all of the billions of dollars the United States has poured into Afghanistan over the years, building the facility in Mazar e Sharif Afghan children live in is one thing the US has done right. He has said the ones working with the children truly love what they are doing and are making an impact in the childen's lives. Having first hand seen the facility, the good care the children seem to getting as well as how the workers caring for them do so with great love and joy, touched him and placed a desire in his heart to reach out and help. He shared with me that the facility needs basic items like sheets, blankets, minimal school supplies such as notebook paper, pencils, pencil pouches, erasers, crayons, bakcpacks. The chilren are also in need of clothing and shoes. He and I discussed this and decided to begin donating some of these items for these innocent children. While I admit I knew nothing about the horror the women in Afghanistan go thru prior to learning of this childrens shelter, I have began informing myself. As a women I know something needs to be done to support these women and help them be stronger and have a voice in their lives. Their culture may be different than my Western one, but they are still women and children that God has given a purpose to. The small amount my family can give will have a huge impact in ways we cannot begin to comprehend. Having this non profit organization get more recognition will change the lives of many Afghan children and women in Mazar e Shariff as well as other places in Afghanistan and in New York City where Afghan women who need help are residing. Why the US governement build the faciity and has dropped the ball on providing needs for the children who live there my husband does not have the answer to. But the US aid worker he knows and works in Mazar closely with, works with those who run the facility and has stressed that the need is very great to provide the basics for the children who live in the facility. Even one or two sets of twin size sheets, a few blankets and backpacks, a few pair of shoes ect...is a start and more than they had before. It is always a good thing to give from the heart and meet the needs of those less fortuante than yourself and I know my husband and I are more than happy to make a small difference for these precious children who have no voice nor choice because their mother is in a prison because she has done no real wrong. She only wanted freedom, wanted a better life for herself and child, wanted to not be treated so horribly by her husband, but was arrested for a crime that we here in the United States would see as differently. I understand the Afghan culture is different, but these women can merely be placed in prison from running away from their husband or harming themselves to make themselves less attractive to their husbands so that he will stop abusing them. Here in the US we would not place someone in prison for this, but rather help them seek medical attention and counseling and provide a safe haven of rescue. I know we must respect cultural difference, learn to understand them, but women's rights no matter the culture demand justice. The work I have read about not only in Afghanistan, but also for the women and children residing in New York is slowly making strides to educate the Afghan women and help them and their children live a better life, but it takes time and money to open facilities and meet the needs of running these places. My husband and I desire to learn more about this non profit, it has been brought into our lives for a purpose and we plan to give as much as we can to the childrens facility in MaZar. When we all give a little from our hearts it blossoms. So please consider recognizing Women for Afghan women, give these women and children a place to learn, grow and thrive. If more people learn about it, they too just may decided to help. Again, giving a little goes along way to make someone smile, feel love, feel important and feel their life has a purpose and worth living. God gave us all gifts and talents, culture should not have barriers, Afghan women need a voice!
So impressed with the support that WAW provides for women and children in crisis both here in New York and in Afghanistan under very challenging financial and political circumstances. From my experience visiting their New York site and getting to know the staff and seeing their programming, WAW should be very proud of the dedication of their staff and creativity in providing services under often difficult circumstances. I know that WAW makes a difference every day and I know that they have a lot on their plate keeping shelters open in Afghanistan as the political landscape becomes often dangerous. The New York site is both welcoming and efficient in helping women and children create a community here in the States and meet challenging adjustment issues.
I was at you Eid Mela on Augest 2nd it was a disaster the music was horrible they promised henna tattooes there was no henna tattooes they said there will be food but there was no food it was our Eid weekend with our families we wanted to have fun but unfortunately it was a horrible experience we will never attend any of your events in the future. I think the event coordinator should get fired for doing such a poor job.
Jessica Wright 08/13/2014
Thank you so much for attending our event. We were all disappointed in the end result and are sincerely sorry that our guests did not get the experience we promised. WAW has had many successful events in collaboration with Afghan artists and vendors over the past 13 years and will learn from the experience of the recent Eid Mela. Once again, our sincere apologies for your experience. Sincerely, WAW Staff
As a volunteer, I had the opportunity to see what a great organization WAW is. They help the women of the Afghan community wholeheartedly. The WAW team helps these women become confident through their wonderful programs and events.
WAW has done a great job in helping Afghan women who face lots of difficulties. I have had the honor to meet some WAW members - they are dedicated individuals who work wholeheartedly and selflessly. They work in a very tough environment, majority of Afghan provinces and districts are unsafe, yet WAW colleagues are there, with their limited resources. Their work should be supported and their voices should be heard.
I found WAW on google, signed up for the annual 4014 Gala in NY and was totally amazed by the life changing work they do for women of Afghanistan. The personal stories of children, at the Gala, who benefited from WAW services touched my heart. WAW is in the front lines helping the most vulnerable members of the society -women and children- in times of war (yes war in 21st century). WAW dedication and focus is changing the world one child and woman at a time. More power to them!
I have working as a volunteer tutor for school-aged children at this nonprofit organization for six months and plan to continue during the next school year. I find it rewarding. The paid and volunteer staff make me feel welcome and useful.
Since I am a retired English as a second language teacher, I able to help the children practice their English and complete their homework. Many of the kids are newcomers to the USA. They attend public schools where classes are large and teachers cannot tailor every lesson to the kids' levels. Therefore, the extra help is needed.
I have been volunteering at WAW for almost a year teaching adult ESL classes and tutoring children. It continues to be a wonderful teaching and learning experience. Everyone's time and efforts are welcomed and appreciated. The women are amazingly strong and authentic and motivated. What a great community of people doing incredibly important work. Supporting and empowering women helps families and communities in immeasurable ways. Glad to be a little part of that.