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Afghan Women on the path to liberation

Great post-Taliban news from Aghanistan.
Afghan Women First to Take Driving Test

By MARK KENNEDY
Associated Press Writer

January 25, 2003, 1:22 PM EST


KABUL, Afghanistan -- Zai Kakal leapt out of the beat-up Toyota flashing a Cadillac-size smile.

Under the watchful eyes of a traffic officer, she had just completed her road test, the final step toward earning what few women in Afghanistan have had in more than a decade: a driver's license.

"I feel very great today," said Kakal, 48. "It was like a dream for me, and now my dream has become true."

Kakal, an accountant at the Women's Affairs Ministry, was the first of 12 women Saturday to take the test. They had to steer a yellow Toyota Corolla about 25 yards along an L-shaped course near Kabul Stadium, then repeat the course in reverse. Those who passed will get their licenses in six days.

Women have not been allowed to drive in Afghanistan since 1992, when Islamic groups seized the capital, Kabul, and began to restrict women's public roles. Confinement of women became even more onerous in 1996, when the hard-line Islamic Taliban militia took control and banned women almost entirely from the workplace and classroom.

Women have enjoyed far greater freedoms since the Taliban's fall in late 2001, followed by the installation of an interim government.

The driving program is sponsored by the German private aid group Medica Mondiale, dedicated to helping women in war-torn countries. It provided classroom materials and paid the salaries of two Afghan men from the Traffic Authority who taught the classes.

Rachel Wareham, a program manager with the group, said several Afghan women first approached her agency in the spring for help learning to drive. Her office now gets 10 requests a day, she said.

"For some, it's very practical -- it's about mobility. It is very difficult for women to move around in Kabul," she said. "For some women, it's about having a skill, and I think psychologically it is very important for women to have something for themselves."

The driving program started informally in April, with Wareham's own driver taking some applicants out for a spin at night. When they were stopped by disapproving men, the driver lied and said the women in the car were his relatives.

Thirty women began the course but only 12 made it to the road test: The others failed a two-page written test on car repair and related matters and an oral exam on traffic signs.

The effort is well worth it, said another hopeful, Omira. Having a license is a type of liberation, she said.

"We won't have to wait any more for a man to come by," said Omira, 20, who goes by just one name.

A man who stopped his bicycle to watch Saturday's road test said women drivers were a sign of hope for Afghanistan, still trying to get back on its feet after 23 years of almost continuous occupation and warfare.

"We are happy for women to have such progress here. Now we can see it with our own eyes," said Zamari, who also uses only one name. "I only hope we can have more peace and more progress in Afghanistan."
Copyright 2003, The Associated Press

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Awesome 26.Jan.2003 11:44

Feminist Guru

Great news. You really have to hand it to Uncle Sam/Aunt Samantha for that one.

Yeah, that is sooo great.... 26.Jan.2003 15:52

Dimitris

Thanks Uncle Sam/Aunt Samantha for teaching Afghani women how to drive. Too bad there aren't many cars in Afghanistan to drive, but at least they have their drive license just in case 10 years down the road they have a car.

This is propaganda news. They teach a few women how to drive but they own no cars of their own to drive. They put a couple of women in the government but the dozens of men outvote them. Then they put a few women in school, but they have no books or school supplies or a learning environment. Somehow that is better. Great.

When is Uncle Sam/Aunt Samantha going to spend time rebuilding the homes they bombed?? Probably after they are done with the oil/gas pipe line that is to reach India through an ENRON power plant that went bankrupt a few years ago.

I wonder, if they gave women in Afghanistan an engine for a boat, but had no boat, would that make them a fisher(wo)man?

Yeah, that is sooo great.... 26.Jan.2003 15:52

Dimitris

Thanks Uncle Sam/Aunt Samantha for teaching Afghani women how to drive. Too bad there aren't many cars in Afghanistan to drive, but at least they have their drive license just in case 10 years down the road they have a car.

This is propaganda news. They teach a few women how to drive but they own no cars of their own to drive. They put a couple of women in the government but the dozens of men outvote them. Then they put a few women in school, but they have no books or school supplies or a learning environment. Somehow that is better. Great.

When is Uncle Sam/Aunt Samantha going to spend time rebuilding the homes they bombed?? Probably after they are done with the oil/gas pipe line that is to reach India through an ENRON power plant that went bankrupt a few years ago.

I wonder, if they gave women in Afghanistan an engine for a boat, but had no boat, would that make them a fisher(wo)man?

Chicken and the egg 26.Jan.2003 17:42

Pollo

So this is kind of a chicken or the egg scenario. With half of Afghanistan's population legally unable to drive because they had no license (women), less cars would be imported.

Now that they have licenses, will the number of imported cars rise as the number of potential drivers has increased?

Something interesting to think about.