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Spotlight: Afghan women mark Int'l Women's Day, hoping for equality

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Spotlight: Afghan women mark Int'l Women's Day, hoping for equality
 The International Women's Day is observed annually on March 8 around the world. The day was also welcomed by Afghan women who are struggling and fighting for equality in the male-dominated country.
Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani issued a statement on the eve of the International Women's Day, saying she was impressed by Afghan women achievements in recent years in various aspects.
"I am impressed when I meet young, educated and passionate women and I get happy when I hear about achievements of women in recent years," she said.
The first lady also urged all Afghans, including women and men, to join hands for bringing about peace and stability in the embattled country.
"The Afghans could utterly overcome the current challenges and crisis if they take further measures for women's empowerment and help strengthen the role of women in society," Chairperson of Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission Sima Samar told a gathering here marking the day on Thursday.
International Women's Day was marked by a series of meetings, conferences, and seminars in the capital city and in the provinces, to highlight women's rights and their role in developing society.
"The government is listening to the concerns and hopes of women but more efforts are needed for empowerment of women. The government and private agencies must appoint more women to the ministries and other institutions and give them more chances for employment," Samar said.
In the past 17 years Afghanistan has made remarkable progress in women's rights and women conditions have improved dramatically in all areas, however, women in Afghanistan have a long way to go in order to overcome the current challenges.
Defying the tribal tradition and restrictions imposed by the Taliban regime during its six-year reign, Afghan women, presently, are serving as cabinet members, legislators, business people, artists and singers, a cultural advancement once unthinkable during the Taliban rule, which collapsed in late 2001.
"The United Nations in Afghanistan marks International Women's Day today, recognizing the global movement for women's rights and the work of activists who have been central to the push for gender equality," the UN mission in the country said in a statement released here Thursday.
It said the theme for this year's Women's Day is "Time Is Now: Rural and Urban Activists Transforming Women's Lives."
"The Afghan government has pledged to increase the presence of women in government to 30 percent by 2020, yet, for now, women's participation countrywide is below this target.
The UN holds that effort should be doubled to ensure that women's voices are heard in public and women are members of key decision-making bodies such as the Supreme Court or holders of senior positions such as governorships or ministerial appointments, the UN statement noted.
"Gender equality is a human right and providing women and girls full access to education, healthcare, work as well as to representation in political and economic spheres will fuel peace and sustainable development. The UN will continue to foster gender equality and expand opportunities for urban and rural women in Afghanistan in 2018 and beyond," the statement read.
Professor Hamida Akbari who teaches management and accounting in a private university in Kabul believes that women's role in both public and private sectors are just symbolic and they are not involved in decision making process.
In Afghanistan women are engaged in small businesses like restaurant, education, agriculture, making handicrafts and travel services because such businesses do not need huge initial investment and they are less risky, Akbari told Xinhua.
Also on Thursday, Afghan Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah congratulated the day to Afghan women and praised women's role in the society particularly their role in the ranks of Afghan National Security Forces.
The inclusion of women in Afghanistan's security forces was also a great achievement, he said.
However, women and girls in the countryside and rural areas are unaware of their rights and are mostly confined to their homes where they suffer from poverty and have little access to schools and clinics.
Afghans mark the day as civilians continue to bear the brunt of armed conflicts as more than 3,430 civilians were killed and over 7,000 others injured in conflict-related incidents in 2017, according to figures released by the United Nations mission in the country.
Out of the casualties, 359 women were killed and 865 others wounded last year across the country.