UK head teacher and gynaecologist speak out over Afghan women's rights

London-based head teacher and Surrey-based gynaecologist tell stories of Afghan women attacked by armed groups in online film for Human Rights Day
 
To mark international Human Rights Day (10 December), Amnesty International has produced two hard-hitting new films highlighting the plight of women in Afghanistan (see www.amnesty.org.uk/afghanistan).
 
The pair of two-minute films feature the cases of an Afghan gynaecologist and a head teacher, both of whom have suffered attacks from armed groups because of their work. The films are voiced by a “matching” British gynaecologist and head teacher, who tell the stories of their two Afghan counterparts before the films reveal their “twists” at the end.
 
The Afghan gynaecologist featured in one of the films - known only as “Dr D” for security reasons - has suffered serious attacks on her family because of her work providing healthcare to women and girls who have been raped by family members. Her 11-year-old son was badly wounded by a bomb attack at the family home in 2009, and six months later her brother was killed in a grenade attack at the house. Dr D has been forced to move out of her home and to keep “a low profile at work” as a result of the attacks and repeated threats from the Taliban over her work.
 
Meanwhile, the film’s Afghan teacher, a headmistress from Laghman province - known as “Parween” for security reasons - had her 18-year-old son abducted in 2009 and later killed by an armed group that said the teacher’s family had been targeted because she had been running a school for girls. Three years later her husband was also badly wounded in a car bomb attack. Like Dr D, Parween has been forced to relocate because of ongoing threats against her. 
 
The films coincide with a campaign calling on the Foreign Secretary William Hague to ensure that the UK prioritises support for the work of Afghanistan’s women’s rights activists. Amnesty supporters are asking their local MPs to contact Mr Hague about the matter, noting that the foreign secretary has recently championed support for women human rights defenders through his Preventing Sexual Violence Initiative (see http://amn.st/IqxQJk).
 
Jo Dibb, 58, head teacher at Elizabeth Garrett Anderson Girls’ School in Islington in north London tells Parween’s story. She said:
 
“When Amnesty explained what had happened to Parween I welcomed the chance to do this film. I feel privileged to be the head of a girls’ school here in Britain, but I’m just full of admiration for Parween’s incredible bravery.”
 
Meanwhile, Dr Caroline White, 33, a gynaecologist at the Epsom General Hospital in Surrey tells Dr D’s story. She said:
 
“I was extremely moved by what I heard about Dr D and knew immediately that I wanted to tell her story in the film. Good-quality women’s healthcare shouldn’t just be the preserve of rich countries like ours, it’s every woman’s right. I’m honoured to reach out a professional hand of friendship to my Afghan counterpart.”
 
The films are part of an Amnesty campaign to obtain firm commitments from the UK government over supporting women’s rights activists in Afghanistan before and after the scheduled international troop withdrawal at the end of 2014. Amnesty is pointing out that women human rights defenders in Afghanistan - including teachers, healthcare workers and journalists - are effectively on the “frontline” in the country, facing great danger whilst working for women’s rights and a sustainable peace in Afghanistan.
 

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