Trio of inspirational vets breaking mold for women in Afghanistan

Photo credit: Dr Mujtaba Rezaei/Nowzad Clinic

TMP – 11/10/2017

A recent article has spotlighted a trio of vets in Afghanistan braving bomb blasts and discrimination to head up an animal welfare practice and inspire a new generation of women. Dr. Maliha Rezaie, Dr. Malalai Haikal and Dr. Tahera Rezayi are just three of an emerging generation of Afghan women who are rejecting traditional female roles and invoking gradual cultural change in their traditional and patriarchal society.

The three women, all in their 20s, run Afghanistan’s only large-scale animal shelter and veterinary clinic, the Kabul-based Nowzad Conrad Lewis Clinic.
The women shared in an article by The Guardian newspaper how they had had to overcome family scorn and prejudice as they worked their way through veterinary school and began leading clinic-based sessions with the next wave of veterinary students.

Dr. Rezayi, who was born in Iran but returned to Afghanistan with her family when she was 13, said her parents fully supported her education and her quest to become Afghanistan’s female boxing champion, but her extended family were scornful.

“My parents and brothers and sisters supported me and made me feel that I could be anything I wanted to be,” said Dr. Rezaei. “But my wider family members were not supportive. Most of them grew up in Afghanistan and thought girls can’t go out. This is not a good culture here. Of course it was hard, but it made me work harder, to prove everyone wrong. The attitude was that girls can’t do anything and I wanted to show them that girls aren’t less than boys.”

Rezaei recalls the discriminatory environment when she enrolled at Kabul University back in 2012. There were only 20 women in the class with 140 male students and all-male teachers.

“Some of the teachers didn’t want us to do well and would mark my grades down,” she said. “In our society, there is a belief that you can’t do things because you are a woman. So when I go out to help someone’s animal, sometimes people don’t want me to touch it. But after I get them to trust me, they thank me.”
Three years ago, the vets launched clinical sessions for other new vets where they share their experiences.

“The women are happy to have a female teacher. But the men often ignore us at first and don’t want to listen to us. Then when we start teaching them interesting information, they start to listen,” Rezaei said.