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UN International Day of Families 2012

Day of Families Observed in Kabul

Kabul, Afghanistan - UPF Ambassadors for Peace celebrated the International Day of Families in Kabul on May 17. Around 200 people from across the population segments attended this marvelous event at the Bakhtar Institute for Higher Education. The program consists of, among other things, speeches, introducing a ‘well-balanced family,’ and enjoying refreshments in small groups. The strong root of family values amongst Afghanis made the event a resonance of joy and enthusiasm amongst the participants. It was a good opportunity to reflect on values still strong and vibrant in this society and a time to think of strengthening traditional family values rather than letting them fade away amidst the uproar of war, chaos, and moral degradation.

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As usual, the program began with recitation of a few verses of the Holy Qur'an and the national anthem. Rahman Ali ‘Jawed’ then opened the program with introductory remarks. He called the Day of Families a celebration day for all, a day based on a value and institution that transcends all cultural, religious, national, and racial boundaries. He gave the general information about the history and relevance of the International Day of Families.

Abdul Khaliq Balaghi, religious figure and a member of the senate of Afghanistan, spoke about the rights and obligations of spouses in the family. As a senator and influential clergy, he recited a verse of Holy Qur'an: "They (women) are your (men’s) clothes and you (men) are their (women’s) clothes" (2:187). He said that it meant that men and women are equally valued in Islam; both have rights and obligations before one another. Life before marriage is incomplete and as men and women get married, the result is the production of light (resembling the conjunction of positive and negative electrical charges). In the marriage contract, both spouses legally accept responsibility vis-à-vis each other. Furthermore, he elaborated on many misinterpretation imposed on Islam regarding women’s rights by many who prefer their own lust and thirst for dominance rather divine guidance. He rejected the idea of any sort of superiority of either sex, male or female, instead he emphasized balance and division of roles between spouses, which guarantees the harmonious coexistence within a family.

Shala Farid, a professor at Kabul University, called for inclusion of the Day of Families in the national calendar of Afghanistan. She talked on the importance of education for the betterment of family life. Based on her research findings, she talked a the phenomena of tragic marriages in Afghanistan:

  • Peace-price marriage: when two tribes or clans fight, a girl is given to settle the conflict
  • Incongruent marriages: marriages with a huge age difference, where the girl does not consent or is not in a position to consent
  • Charity marriage: before a girl is born, she is earmarked for a local chief, a powerful commander, a religious figure, or for one their sons
  • Marriage to gain political power: a girl is sold to a rich or powerful man who can give a political position to the father of the girl
  • Recommended marriage: when a man is outside of the country, his parents in his home country choose a girl for him; in absence of the boy and without the consent of the girl, the girl is sold to the boy’s family

In light of the high illiteracy rate (60% of men and 86% of women) in Afghanistan, Shahla stated that it is difficult to talk of families in which the rights are respected and basic needs of spouses and children are met. She regarded it very instrumental to empower families through programs that raise awareness and educate the youths before marriage in order to promote more peaceful families and societies.

Said Hasan Alawi ‘Veera’, an intellectual and professor, talked about Family and Social Balance. He went deep into the patriarchal history of men. He explained that distorted understandings about women have unfortunately imbalanced the family life and the way the spouses relate to each other. Since society has been male-dominated, therefore family life also has been affected, and women have been confined to working in the household.

He talked of a masculine history and culture as unexceptional phenomenon, occurring in all parts of the world. In particular, he cited certain classic works of authors, philosophers, and poets in the Islamic world to clarify the biased narratives and historical views about women that still prevail in many societies. Veera explained how derogatory the views have been about women and still are in certain area. Male-dominant interpretation of the religious texts and books has contributed to deterioration of women rights. He called on scholars and religious figures to challenge such views and misunderstandings about women, saying that "We will never have a balanced society unless we have balanced families, and it is an impossible in the absence of equal roles for both men and women."

According to Veera, the new world is faced with serious crises of security, legitimacy, participation, ethics, leadership, and family. In the social sciences, a new discourse of ‘feminization of poverty’ has emerged, which means that the situation is far from adequate. Feminized poverty in the world had doubled the tyranny against women, which is a double oppressive system of women rights violation. The world has witnessed racial, linguistic, and tribal oppression, but gender oppression has been the worst and cruelest of all. In Afghanistan, Veera proposed that the following measures to reverse the situation regarding women and contribute to a more peaceful society:

  • The educational system should be designed in a way that addresses the problem and raises up students with a more balanced world view regarding gender;
  • Supportive laws for the improvement of women's rights should be legislated; and
  • Patriarchal and unfair structure in the realms of politics and economics should be reformed.
  • Veera concluded his speech by saying that the family rests on the two pillars of husband and wife, masculine and feminine roles; therefore, women have to be present and active in all affairs of the family and society. Any sort of violence and deprivation will disrupt the peace and harmony in the family and society at large.

    Husneiah Anvaree, a woman activist and poet, read a poetry in which she called upon Afghani women to raise their voices and struggle for further presence and participation in all walks of collective life. A couplet of her poetry reads as below:

    with your innocent face and oppressed heart [oh woman]
    in the hidden corner, how you can survive?

    Nooralah ‘Navayee’, an Ambassador for Peace of UPF, explained the “Helping Poor Families” project through a PowerPoint presentation. This important service project was done in preparation for the International Day of Families. Ambassadors for Peace designed and implemented this project, which is one of the many projects done by the young activists. They raised funds and helped some poor families with donations of food and clothing.

    In his presentation, Navayee explained to the participants parts of the UPF philosophy that the family is the center and prototypes of loving relations. He described the realms of love of children, brothers and sisters, husband and wife, and father and mother. He also explained the importance of extending helping hands to families who experiencing hardship, in other words, the importance of living for the sake of others. Through their project they exemplified this philosophy. "Based on family values and by reviving and strengthening this values," Navayee stated, "we can move towards a culture of peace and service."

    Zaki Farzam, another active Ambassador for Peace of UPF, introduced Tahir’s family as a model of a ‘well-balanced family.’ Farzam pointed out the criteria based on which the family had been chosen as a model family:

    • Loving relationship and partnership between the spouses;
    • Investing in their children;
    • Good relations with neighbors and relatives.

    Tahir’s neighbors and relatives had been interviewed; they all had expressed their admiration for his family. The five children of the family were the best students in their school, as their teachers and classmates stated. Tahir had fought poverty and the wrong traditions to send his children to school. According to the couple, they had never had a fight in the course of their marriage. The husband works as cook in the Red Cross Office in Kabul and the wife handles all other affairs of the family.

    Professor Jamily, a university teacher, presented a certificate of appreciation to the family, praising them for their commitment, loyalty, and investment in future. A family photo was presented to them as a memento of admiration for their familial commitment and the way they value each other.

    At the end, the participants shared with each other in groups, while enjoying tea and cake. It was an opportunity to cross the borders of ethnicity and other differences and join in circles around a value shared by everyone, family, of which all have memories and experiences. They exchanged words, smiles, and cards, paving the way for recognizing other for their good works and dedication to higher values in their society.

    To read more about UPF observances of the International Day of Families 2012, click here.

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