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The Centre for Citizenship Development and Human Rights, along with The City of Port Phillip co hosted a public Forum at the St Kilda Town Hall on June 3rd. The guest speaker from Afghanistan SHAZIA spoke on the escalating violence, under development and women striving for change in Afghanistan. Rebecca Barber from World Vision Australia spoke on education in Afghanistan - the lack of it, and some of the challenges facing increasing access to education, particularly for women.
I chaired a very moving forum on Wednesday June 2 at St. Kilda Town Hall with Shazia, a representative of RAWA in Afghanistan. Shazia is a pseudonym so as not to be identified in Afghanistan for her activities and her photograph could not be taken at the forum. She was educated by RAWA in very difficult circumstances, and has completed a degree in Psychology. Shazia spoke about the history of RAWA and its opposition to succeeding regimes in Afghanistan since the 1970s including the occupying forces of the Soviet Union, the terror regimes of the war lords and the taliban, and now the US puppet regime. RAWA has educated generations of Afghani women in the belief that with education comes autonomy and democracy. But this has been a dangerous path to take and Shazia spoke of the danger that girls and women face in trying to get that basic skill that we all take for granted, the ability to read and write! Women are physically attacked, have acid thrown in their faces, are raped and murdered just in the effort to gain this.
Also speaking at the forum were Rebecca Barber from World Vision who had just returned from a three week visit there and who spoke about the difficulties that girls and women faced in going to school but also the determination that so many parents have to educate their daughters for a better life in the future. Onnie Wilson, a long-time supporter of RAWA also spoke of the courage RAWA members display in their efforts to gain human and civil rights for women in Afghanistan.
I came away with a renewed determination that groups such as RAWA must be supported by the Australian public and centres such as the CCDHR.