The Fragility of Rights: Reflections on Afghanistan

Like most, I watched in disbelief as Afghanistan fell back to the hands of the Taliban – an event that I didn’t think I would be witnessing again. But, what seemed like overnight, Afghanistan was gone, and with it, the rights of Afghan women and girls.

Following the fall of the Taliban in 2001, women and girls were able to come out of forced seclusion, and slowly re-engaging in their communities, determined to mark their place in the world.  They made impressive gains in numerous sectors that included education, sports, technology, music, and even politics with unbridled potential. 

But since the Taliban took control in August 2021, upwards of five million girls and women have seen their freedoms, hopes and aspirations abruptly and violently vanish. It was all gone, their human rights, their inherent right to education, health, freedom to choose, and opportunity to strive and reach their potential.

What has happened in Afghanistan has made me think about the fragility of human rights.  As a human race, we have made progress in almost all spheres of life – we have decoded the DNA, have a station suspended in space, have developed watches that can measure heart rate and smartphones that can accomplish tasks that would have seemed science fiction not too long ago. But, for whatever reason, our most basic universal rights, rights that are inherent to all, continue to be fragile and negotiable. 

Violations of human rights continue to happen at an astonishing rate, regardless of geography, age, gender or race.  Violations are happening in the most advanced nations in the world, such as Canada, to one of the least advanced places, such as Afghanistan. 

As global citizens, we cannot afford to be complacent – not now.  Although we, as women, have made enormous gains, they are not guaranteed.  We need to stand united and continue the march forward, as did our predecessors.  This is not the time to relax, but to blaze on forward and build on our successes.  

Image of Mariam Omar, Board Member

Mariam Omar (She/Her) is the co-founder and current Chair of the Manitoba Chapter of Canadian Women for Women in Afghanistan. She is a human rights activist who is happy to serve on the board of IIWR-MB and work with an amazing, eclectic group of people to promote and advance gender equity – as we together and collectively march for a better tomorrow – a tomorrow where gender equity and equality is the rule, rather than the exception.

Image Credit: UN Women