The young Afghan woman fighting for women’s rights

Muqadasa paints a wall in Jalalabad to encourage combatants to renounce violence. © UNDP Afghanistan / Omer Sadaat / 2017

TMP – 14/09/2017

Twenty-four-year-old Muqadasa Ahmadzai, from eastern Nangarhar province, is a social activist working to promote peace and women’s rights across Afghanistan.

Muqadasa was 19 when her family found out that she was involved in civil rights and peace activism. “I was beaten by my family for a few days when they found out,” Muqadasa explains. “I tried to convince my father that if a son could fulfill his hopes, a daughter could also make him proud,” she says. Although her family didn’t approve of her work Muqadasa continued undeterred.

One day, her uncle came to her house with a copy of a book of poems Muqadasa had secretly published while she was still a teenager.
“He told my father he was very proud of me for the book I had written. My father realized since others appreciated my work, he, as my father, should also be proud of me,” Muqadasa says.

Recently Muqadasa and her friends launched a campaign where they painted colourful peace messages on the walls across Jalalabad city in Nangarhar. The aim of the campaign was to encourage militants to renounce violence. “We sent a message to them to join in with us and spray colours instead of blood,” Muqadasa says.

Muqadasa also works to reduce violence against women. She has set up a network of 400 young women throughout the province who travel to nearby districts to help other women who are suffering from domestic violence or who are at risk of being given away to compensate for crimes committed by male members of their family.

Once such case involved Pari, a young woman involved in a land dispute, who was being forced to leave her land or hand over her daughters for marriage. “I asked Muqadasa for help. Muqadasa gathered influential people in our community and helped to resolve our dispute,” Pari explains.

Muqadasa is considering running for parliament in a couple of years. “I have a passion for politics but only because it will give me a platform to do more for my people,” she says.