Today’s post is brought to you by Women’s Equality Day. In the US we celebrate this day in honor of the application of the Nineteenth Amendment to the US Constitution on August 26, 1920.
This amendment protects the citizen’s right to vote regardless of their sex. This was a monumental step for women in the US and the fight for overcoming the woman’s suffrage movement. While we want to give thanks and acknowledgment to all of the women that fought so hard to get women’s right to where they are right now, I think it’s important for us to look outside of our US experience of what it’s like to be a woman, and take a look at the experiences that women in Afghanistan are presently facing.
20 years ago, the Taliban ruled over Afghanistan. The last time the Taliban ruled over Afghanistan, the rights of women were stripped. What that looked like for women in Afghanistan was: the closing of women’s universities, forcing nearly all women to quit their jobs (at the time women made up 70% of schoolteachers, 50% of government workers and university students, and 40% of doctors), restricted access to medical care, which resulted in Afghanistan having the world’s second-worst rate of maternal death during childbirth averaging 16 out of 100 births resulting in death. Restrictions on what women were allowed to wear, requiring for women to be covered in a burqa (which economically isn’t feasible for all women, and leaves women of disability at a major disadvantage). Children were stripped of their youth and creativity by the taking away of their songs, dolls, stuffed animals, and school access ending at the age of eight years old. (Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor “Report on the Taliban's War Against Women”, 2001, https://2001-2009.state.gov/g/drl/rls/6185.htm)
This is the fear and present reality that women in Afghanistan are currently facing. Women in Afghanistan have been free for the past 20 years from this ruling. The quality of life that women have been working so hard for is now at risk of being stripped away from them. I had the honor of interviewing Sacramento-based human rights activist Lovelynn Ramirez. Lovelynn has been working closely with the current human rights crisis that Afghanistan is presently facing.
Last year in 2020, Lovelynn had the opportunity to visit Afghanistan while volunteering as humanitarian aid. Part of her experience as a humanitarian aid included: sponsorship/donor aid, personal contributions, organizing Go Fund Me’s, volunteering at orphanages, handing out food- the opportunities are endless in ways that you can contribute and help. During her volunteering season, she developed a strong bond with the culture and country of Afghanistan. “Afghanistan is the #1 misunderstood country, that’s primarily associated with war/terrorism, and that couldn’t be further from the reality. It’s such a beautiful country, rich in community, culture- and has some of the best food I’ve ever eaten! I experienced the most hospitable people I’ve ever met during my time there. It is such an honor and privilege to have experienced Afghanistan’s beauty and magic, and its people of such resilience and strength. It is truly a Godly place. I hope that everyone would have an opportunity to experience the beauty of this land at least once in their lifetime.”
Lovelynn’s experience in 2020 in Afghanistan led her to develop a special, interpersonal relationship with a woman survivor from the November 2020 terrorist attack on Kabul University led by the Taliban. The remainder of the article will include details of violence, and oppression that might be triggering to some readers. Please advise carefully. By sharing this detailed story, we at WEW Cosmetics hope to shed light on the suppression against women that we in the US have the privilege of not having to experience. We hope to bring awareness of how our freedom as women here in the US has come so far, but it is our duty as women looking to empower other women, we must look outside of our circumstances and lend a hand, and help where we can. We are better together.
November 2020, there was a terrorist attack on Kabul University led by the Taliban. The Taliban entered the school and unloaded their guns on 100’s of students in the law building. This law building was specifically targeted due to the impact that the students that come out of that program would have on the future of the Afghanistan government. These students were the future of who would take over the Afghanistan office in this generation. This program was filled with mostly women, as some men as well, that we’re working towards changing the infrastructure of the government to a more westernized structure. One that would be focused on furthering the equality of women in their society.
As the Taliban went through the first floor, strapped with suicide bombs guns, locking all the doors— they executed each student one by one. By the time they reached the second floor, students began to realize what was happening. Students then began to jump from the second story just to save themselves.
After this incident, the humanitarian aid group Lovelynn was volunteering with went to the building and did a walk-through where everything happened. They saw thousands of bullet holes in the walls, and the halls reeked of blood. There they spoke with the President of Kabul University. He shared with them “he hasn’t seen this since 20 years ago when the Taliban first came.”
Lovelynn felt called to do more. She decided to use her social media platform (IG handle: lovelynn_kiyoko) to raise awareness and money. During her time in Afghanistan, the humanitarian aid group she was volunteering with went to multiple hospitals and care facilities, using the money they put together to pay for the medical bills of the survivors. They also took the time to meet with families of the survivors to listen to their stories, and give their condolences. During their hospital tour, Lovelynn connected with a young activist woman that was raised in an activist family. The family invited her over for traditional tea and dinner to keep the conversation going.
The young woman she met suffered multiple injuries from the incident, resulting in full-body injuries. The brave young woman forced herself to jump out the window from the second story to give herself the best shot of saving her life. The incident has left her with lifelong bodily changes and challenges, as well as her now suffering from PTSD from the traumatic incident. The mere sound of a pencil dropping on the ground will send her body back into shock, putting her back into the moment of watching gunmen kill her classmates and her barely making it out alive. The young woman, despite being through so much, her biggest concern was returning to school. “School is such a privilege here.” she expressed. Amongst facing such pain, oppression, and hate, her passion for education, and being the difference she wants to see in the world, remained intact. The young woman is the daughter of a male activist and journalist that actively fought for the rights of women in Afghanistan. “I will die fighting for our rights here, I have daughters, I won’t let them take away my daughters’ rights.”
Here in America, we as women have come such a long way in comparison to other countries and the oppression that women face. Here in the US we can go to school, and receive an education without the fear of losing our lives for it. It’s a privilege and blessing we have the honor of not having to experience. As far as women have come here in the US, we are only as strong as our “weakest” sister. This belief must extend outside of our immediate region. At the end of the day we are all connected, and all as worthy as one another. Women all over the world deserve basic, human rights and more.
Today we reflect and thank our US society for how far it has come in the fight for women’s equality. Today, we also acknowledge the truth that there are still so many women around the world that are facing oppression, and lacking equality in ways we can’t imagine. I encourage you as a woman, in whatever season you are in, to take a minute and breathe in thankfulness for the level of equality and privilege that you currently experience in your life. We all can contribute to the ongoing fight for women’s equality in some way. Whether it’s sharing a post, or getting physically involved, we can help our fellow sisters in achieving the freedom and equality that we are all deserving of.