Sunday, September 14, 2014

Why I Need to Continue Making Women Count

In 2011, after reading a couple of books that discussed how far women have come and also how far we have to go I made it my 2011 blog goal to Make Women Count.

My goals were to write about:

- Women counting for more than their beauty. Explore our cultures preoccupation with weight and beauty.

- Highlighting women who are making a difference.

- Give practical advice on how women can achieve their full potential.

- Read and review books emphasizing strong women or women who have discovered their passion. Study these women as role models and analyze what made them strong.

-Answer women’s questions on work and finance issues.

-Continue to get a clue about health and beauty products. Currently, there seems to be a product or procedure that will fix just about anything. I plan to continue researching what products are genuine and which are scams.

After a year of writing posts covering topics such as shadism, the gender wealth gap and sexual harassment the year ended on a low note when I found myself guilty of gender bias. I had automatically and wrongly assumed the woman I was introduced to was the subordinate while the man she was with was the manager. After this incident I lost the enthusiasm for my project and despite vowing to continue it in 2012 I went in a different direction.

While reading Jenny Nordberg’s book The Underground Girls of Kabul: In Search of a Hidden Resistance in AfghanistanI couldn’t help but be reminded my former project.

After the Taliban regime was removed, the new Afghan government mandated a minimum of 25 percent of parliament seats be held by females. Azita, a woman Nordberg features in this book, is one of these females. In their almost five years in office, she and the other women rarely speak during sessions and if they do are ridiculed and cut off. In Azita’s reasoning:
it is better to exist on the inside, where she at least has a vote than to only shout about women’s rights from outside the barricades, where few but the foreign press might listen. Her own brand of resistance is slightly different. For instance, she never misses an opportunity to be on camera. The young and spirited Kabul press corps, much of which operates with foreign aid money, often ask Azita to comment on parliamentary negotiations and she always accepts. She prefers to be interviewed on the lawn outside, as the plenum usually disrupts in angry murmurs and complains at the sight of a video camera, although photography is indeed allowed. Azita never confronts colleagues who argue women should not appear on television, but to her that is exactly the point. If a young boy or girl somewhere in Afghanistan catches a glimpse of a woman on television, and an elected politician at that, it has some small value. To show them that at least she exists. That she is a possibility. (Pgs. 56-57)

As we go about our lives it is easy to not think about those who live in other parts of the world and what they are experiencing. I am aware women in Afghanistan have it rough and were treated as second class citizens under the Taliban, but I didn’t realize progress for women has seen little change since 2001. Sure in Kabul and some of the major cities more women are seen on the streets and more girls attend school. Outside of these areas though burkas are still commonplace and women rarely venture out without their husbands, marriages are forced, honor killings are not unusual, rape victims go to jail or are forced to marry their rapists and daughters are used as currency to settle disputes or pay off debts. Daughters are so undervalued that some families are forced to dress their girls as boys. The reasons for this vary from needing a son to work outside of the home to requiring a son to improve the family's standing in the community.

Changing this culture is not going to be an easy. Power in Afghanistan has long been held by men who control property and women are considered property. I applaud women like Azita who do what little they can to improve the lives of all. If I can spend a year reading and writing in an attempt to  make women count then at the end of the year still succumb to a gender bias can you imagine what those trying to promote woman’s equality in Afghanistan are up against?

As I continue my quest to reinvent my life in my 52nd year perhaps I need to consider bringing back my making women count project. I may not be able to actually make women count or even eliminate all of my own deeply ingrained gender biases, but hopefully I can help show others the possibility of change.

This post was inspired by The Underground Girls of Kabul by journalist Jenny Nordberg, who discovers a secret Afghani practice where girls are dressed and raised as boys. Join From Left to Write on September 16th as we discuss The Underground Girls of Kabul. As a member, I received a copy of the book for review purposes.

Please Note, I am an Amazon Affiliate


  1. Amazing post. I want to continue making women count, as well. Too often we forget about the daily plight of women across the world. If only all they had to deal with was a catcall or two.

  2. I think every day women like us make women "count" by sharing our stories and using our voices. Thanks for sharing your story, and those of the girls in Kabul.

  3. This is a fascinating post! I am adding The Underground Girls of Kabul to my reading list.

  4. This post is making women count. I'm sorry that you stopped. We all make mistakes and it's easy to fall back into gender biased thinking when we're constantly bombarded with those messages.

  5. We are all taking steps today to make women count. It feels good to be spreading this discussion around the internet.

  6. Even if you lost focus a bit, I love the idea of having a women count (or even a people count) them for a blog.

  7. An excellent post! We should remember that we have come a long way already. Not too long ago in the United States women couldn't vote, let alone hold office.

    Change is difficult, but every little change helps and what Azita does may seem like little but it's those little changes all linked up that create strength and hopefully eventually greater freedom for women. Not just in Afghanistan but even here, in the U.S.

  8. I second Kim's comment--your post IS making women count--just entering a dialogue about these issues, engaging in a thoughtful exploration of the current state of affairs, and taking a risk sharing your own bias (we all have our biases) inspires me to think about theses issues and do the same.

  9. I absolutely think you should continue your project - I would be very interested, as always, in hearing what you have to say. And don't be too hard on yourself there, Savvy....everyone struggles with their own internal biases. Perhaps continuing the project will help you eliminate any doubts you have on where your heart lies.

  10. I think that God point out our mistakes not to silence us, but to help us do better next time. KEEP GOING. You are doing great work. Found you on Chasing Joy.

  11. You should definitely bring back your project. I remember that post where you caught yourself being gender biased. I don't think you should beat yourself up about it. I think doing your project was probably what drew your attention to your mistake so quickly.

    I never really thought about how hard women and girls from other countries have it until I learned that often girls miss a week of school during their period because they don't have access to sanitary products. It can be hard being a women in general but super hard in many other parts of the world.

    Thanks for linking up for #flashbackFriday. I am pinning your post to the #FlashbackFriday Pinterest board.