Abida Nowroz, a native of Jalalabad, is training to be a nurse in a country where women’s rights have little space in the patriarchy of the system. However, she is determined to change the situation in the repressive society. Her small bit is actually a storm in an ocean, keeping in mind her social context. She comes from a place where traditionally women have been restricted to home and are prevented from venturing outside.
“I don’t waste even a single day without any kind of learning,” explains Abida.
Globally, Afghanistan has extremely high infant mortality and maternal mortality rates, in fact, one of the highest in the world. There is utter absence of healthcare services, particularly in rural areas. Together with a paucity of women health workers, the situation means that several Afghan women fail to receive even basic healthcare that they desperately need.
“I do not want to see mothers die on their way to clinics and healthcare centers, or see their children become orphans,” says Abida, with a forlorn look on her face.
Abida will graduate from the training school in 2017 and will work in the poorest villages of her province in Afghanistan. But Abida is not alone in her efforts to change the situation of women in Afghanistan. She has 200 other colleagues—all fired by the same passion to serve their society and ensure women’s rights and empowerment.
The Jalalabad nursing school is one among six spread across the country and will be training more than 200 nurses every year. They have been set up by the Ministry of Public Health of Afghanistan and supported by the UNDP. The objective of the nursing center is to raise a new generation of female health workers.
Abida is part of the first batch of graduates who would bring desperately needed healthcare to women in the remotest of areas and reach completely cutoff communities.
Throughout history and particularly during the Taliban rule in the last decade of the twentieth century, women were a repressed lot. Taliban prohibited women from going to work and decreed they could not leave their homes until they were accompanied by a male family member. And when they did go out they were ordered to wear a head to toe all-covering burqa.
Even now, women continue to struggle for basic freedoms and rights in a society that is chiefly male dominated. Violence against women is high in Afghanistan but things are changing for the better as the country slowly makes its way to progress, particularly as the women themselves line up with the battle cry raging in their hearts.