In order to address the promotion of women’s rights in Afghanistan, WISE collaborated with the Noor Educational and Capacity Development Organization (NECDO), a non-governmental development organization dedicated to helping women and children in need. Jamila Afghani, NECDO’s director, was inspired to create a project to train Imams—religious leaders—on women’s rights after learning about a similar program in the Philippines during the 2009 WISE global conference. In Afghanistan, Imams are highly influential in shaping society and can be key allies in tackling gender inequality.
In November 2009, focused on training and mobilizing Imams from twenty influential and populous mosques. The Imams met regularly at NECDO to learn about patriarchal violence associated with marriage, inheritance, ownership and property, and political and social participation. Specific attention was given to the prevalence of violence, accurate related scriptural interpretations, national laws and instruments on women’s rights, international human rights instruments on gender, and strategies for change.
The training sessions demonstrated that numerous harmful traditional practices against women were a result of patriarchal (mis)interpretations of the Quran and Hadith (sayings of Prophet Muhammad).
In phase one, started with 20 Imams delivered more than 300 sermons during the six-month project period to approximately 117,600 congregants, of which an estimated 12% were women. Media attention and coverage were extensive, with an estimated 9.5 million people being exposed to sermons on women’s rights in Islam. The NECDO and the Imams also developed a series of booklets on the five women’s human rights issues in simple Dari. 10,000 copies of the booklets were printed and distributed throughout the community.
In June 2010, hiring thirty university students—both male and female—to monitor Imams’ Friday sermons, and publishing and distributing 15,000 copies of the booklets on women’s rights. The program established formal women’s sections in the ten mosques in Kabul and appointed twenty women as leaders in their mosque.