Imam Training in Afghanistan

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.

Our Impact

  • Twenty Imams from influential and populous mosques in Kabul learn about five major women’s human rights issues (education, marriage, inheritance, ownership and property, and political and social participation) and related forms of violence.
  • Delivered over 300 Friday sermons on these five issues to approximately 117,600 congregants 14,400, or 12%, were women.
  • According to the university student project monitors, 97% of the 240 individuals interviewed after the Friday sermons believed that Islamic human rights for men and women were equal and the same.
  • More than 15,000 booklets on ending violence against women were produced and distributed among mosques.
  • The initial success of the program enabled WISE to extend the project for another year in twenty Kabul mosques, and to replicate the project activities in ten Jalalabad mosques.
  • Phase two: The Imam training program promoted community awareness about ensuring the safety and rights of women.
  • More than 200 women attended Imam Abdul Wasi’s khutbah in Kabul: After the khutbah several of the women expressed their appreciation of the project because they now were more aware about their Islamic rights.
  • From 2009 to 2015 NEDCO WISE’s partner expanded the training to all provinces of a total of 6000 Imans in rights of woman.
  • Jamila Afghani won the Tanenbaum Center for Interreligious Understanding’s 2010 Peacemakers in Action Award: After being nominated by WISE, Jamila won the Tanenbaum award, which honors individuals inspired by their faith to work peace on initiatives in regions of armed conflict.
  • The Imam-training program was recognized by the Clinton Global Initiative as a 2010 Commitment to Action: CGI members showcased Commitments, or initiatives to address various global challenges, in order to spark constructive feedback and garner partnerships.

See More

WISE Stories of Impact: Jamila Afghani (page 53).

“Jamila Afghani,” The Tanenbaum Center for Interreligious Understanding.

WISE Stories of Impact: Jamila Afghani (page 53).