Friday, July 16, 2010

Violence Against Afghan Women

Ignorance is bliss. Oh! There are countless times in my life I've felt this to be true. Because once I know, ignorance can no longer be an excuse. Then I have to face the question: Now that I know, what am I going to do about it?

I posted some videos of violence against Afghan women on my Facebook wall recently, and a few friends commented that they "can't bear" to watch it. I guess it's easy to not see, not know, and not feel. It's safer to hide behind a closed door and not let unpleasant things get into our system and stir up unwanted feelings within.

BUT YOU HAVE TO WATCH IT. And you must dare to open your heart wide to feel all the injustice, sadness, anger that arise naturally. Because only then, only then, will you be compelled to take action.

According to the United Nations, 87% of Afghan women have been victims of domestic violence.

Many girls in their teens are forced to marry men they do not know. When they are abused and try to run away, they are tortured or flogged publicly, some are even killed because they bring disgrace to their families. And the killers are often family members.

Because this is a fate they believe they can't escape from, many attempt suicide, some by setting themselves on fire. Read about it here.

Here is Sosan's story. She is just one Afghan woman, but we're told hers in not unique...

The plight of women in Afghanistan is horrifying. And so when I got word from Mellisa Chong of UNIFEM Singapore that the Country Director of UNIFEM Afghanistan, Wenny Kusuma, would be in Singapore for two days, I jumped at the opportunity to have an exclusive interview with her.

The interview was held at the Parkroyal hotel on Beach Road, after her day of training with the staff of the International Red Cross. It was almost 7pm when my best friend Ning (she came along to take photos) and I got to the hotel and met Mellisa and Camilla of UNIFEM Singapore. They had made arrangements for us to hold the interview on the 7th floor of the hotel, which was a private VIP floor, so that it was less noisy.

Me seated on the carpeted floor as I interview Wenny Kusuma on the executive floor lobby of Parkroyal @ Beach Road.

Still, you will hear the ambient noise during the recorded interview: Lifts going "ding!" or voices as hotel guests walk by... but I promise you Wenny's stories will keep you hooked.

Her voice was calm, measured and reflective, but there was a sadness that hinted at the many things she has seen, heard and witnessed that she carries perhaps as a burden upon her soul.

Wenny shares that her life has been threatened many times.

If you watched the Sosan video above, you will know that what UNIFEM and other human rights organisations are doing in Afghanistan to empower women to speak up & seek help is changing the World Order in the country. They are rocking the boat, ruffling feathers, and making many people angry.

Wenny reveals off-air that her life and her staff's have been threatened many times. She has even lost members of her staff to these death threats. It really touched a deep chord in me because it speaks volumes of the conviction they have.

I think if you have witnessed the brutality and injustice with your own eyes, it's impossible to turn away from helping another human being.

I will not reveal much more of that interview. You will just have to tune in to hear the full story. In the meantime, to find out more about the work of UNIFEM Afghanistan, click here.

Thanks to UNIFEM Singapore for arranging this exclusive interview: [L to R] Mellisa Chong, Wenny Kusuma, Camilla Adinda.

Thanks too to my best friend Ning for coming down to help take photos & videos for our blog & Facebook page. You can read her blog entry by clicking here.

Catch the airing of this pre-recorded interview on 938LIVE in mid-August.
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