Women in Afghanistan: passive victims of the borga or active social participants?

This paper, based on field research in Kabul in February 2002, begins by discussing how women experience war and violent conflict differently from men, in particular by defining different types of violence against women in Afghanistan. Second, by identifying individual Afghan women, as well as women's networks and organisations, I analyse their different coping strategies and the ways in which networking and different forms of group solidarity became mechanisms for women's empowerment. Third, I demonstrate how, throughout Taliban rule, many women risked their lives by turning their homes into underground networks of schools for girls and young women. I argue that, as social actors, they created cohesion and solidarity in their communities. Their secret organisations have already laid the foundation for the building of social capital, which is crucial for the process of reconstruction in Afghanistan. In the final section, I propose that women in Afghanistan, as social actors, are optimistic and willing to participate in the process of reconstruction. As a researcher, I intend to articulate their voice, views, and demands, which I hope will be taken into consideration by policy makers and aid workers. This article is freely available as a chapter in Development, Women and War: Feminist Perspectives