By Maryam Almahdi
It has been no surprise to see that since the fall of the Taliban Regime about two decades ago, the country Afghanistan’s women have had trouble leading themselves back into the public. Given that Afghanistan is an extremely conservative country, with an Islamic Republic government, many women around Afghanistan have undergone shame and beatings for using their names in public; it may sound like a ludicrous thing to think about in our society, but “shame” and “dishonour” is the reality of Afghan women who choose to use their names in public.
It is customary to address a woman by her role in the household, rather than her own name, and from their date of birth to the day they die, most women’s names don’t even show up on any important dates or documents with them involved, like wedding invitations, prescriptions, and even death certificates. Laleh Osmany, an Afghan women’s activist, started the campaign #WhereIsMyName about three years ago, saying she was done with women being denied “basic rights.”
Her campaign was met with backlash from conservative members of the Afghani government, men, and even women. One woman says: "When someone asks me to tell them my name, I have to think about the honour of my brother, my father and my fiancé, I want to be referred to as the daughter of my father, the sister of my brother, And in the future, I want to be referred to as the wife of my husband, then the mother of my son.” It is a sad idea to think about how many women think of themselves as only the property of the men in their lives. But, with this campaign, Osmany has brought out so many voices of the women who go unseen and unheard in Afghani society, providing them with a safe space to share their stories under the hashtag #WhereIsMyName on social media sites.
This campaign has also garnered the attention of many Afghani celebrities, who shout their words of support. the singer/music producer Farhad Darya says: "When we refer to women by their roles, their original and real identity gets lost, When men deny women's identities, over time women themselves begin to censor their own identity.” So far, the movement has accumulated some small victories, one of them being that Afghan citizens will now have their mother and father’s name printed on their ID’s. Although this may not seem like a big deal, it has done some justice to the women who live in this extremely patriarchal society; Fawzia Koofi, a women’s rights activist says: "The matter of including a woman's name on the national ID card in Afghanistan is not a matter of women's rights - it's a legal right, a human right, any individual who exists in this world has to have an identity." This may be small in the eyes of the world, but it is a big step towards equality and women’s rights not only in Afghanistan, but in other developing countries as well.