Today, on the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, Amnesty International's Write for Rights campaign focuses on Young Women for Change (YWC), a movement of young Afghan women and men advocating against sexual discrimination and inequality. Founded in March 2011 by two inspiring young Afghan women, Norjahan Akbar, 21, and Anita Haidary, 20, the organisation is committed to improving the lives of women across Afghanistan, where they continue to suffer gross discrimination, through social and economic participation.
According to Amnesty International's 2012 report, Afghan women and girls are subjected to various forms of discrimination, including domestic violence, forced marriage, trafficking and being traded to settle disputes. A recent report by UN Women and the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights commission found that 56% of Afghan brides were under the age of 16.
Allegations of beatings and sexual violence against women are rarely investigated by the Afghan authorities, and women who try to flee abusive marriages or report rape are often detained and prosecuted for alleged offences such as "home escape" or "moral" crimes.
Young Women for Change is playing a crucial role in providing a platform for the debate about women's rights and gender equality. In July this year they held an anti-street harassment march, the first in Afghan history, and they have also conducted the first large-scale study of sexual harassment in Afghanistan.
The organisation also opened Afghanistan's first internet cafe exclusively for women in Kabul, where women are free to study and socialise away from the surveillance of men, and are able to learn computer skills and develop their literacy skills. The cafe – named Sahar Gul after a 15-year-old Afghan bride who was imprisoned and abused by her husband and in-laws after she refused to be sold for sex – has also become a refuge for women and girls in Kabul.
The Sahar Gul centre is just one of the courageous endeavours undertaken by Young Women for Change. For more information, and to show solidarity for this inspiring organisation, visit amnesty.org.uk/ywc.
Young Women for Change is an independent non-profit organization consisting of dozens of volunteer women and male advocates across Afghanistan.
It was established to empower women across Afghanistan and recruit them to the struggle for gender equality.