Afghan women have launched a social media campaign called “#WhereIsMyName” to fight against the patriarchal system labeling them as invisible.
In Afghanistan it is offensive and inappropriate to reveal the name of a woman, even in death. Women are often referred to as “mother of my children” or “aunt” and headstones read “the wife/daughter/mother/sister of X” rather than have the birth name of the woman engraved onto it. Female names on birth and death certificates, wedding invitations and other legal documents are nowhere to be found, and these women have had enough.
A social media campaign has launched to combat this long-standing practice and give women their identity back. Many famous Afghans have taken part in the campaign by revealing the full names of the female members of their family, and people from around the world have expressed their outrage and are showing their support. One campaigner tells of how she went to a private bank office and was asked for her mothers name, she said;
“I paused for a few seconds because I had actually forgotten my mother’s name. Nobody in all these years asked or called her by her name.”
Afghan women have regained many of the rights that were stripped from them during Taliban rule, however, patriarchal systems often remain in their domestic life, and women still have to ask for their husband’s permission before doing most things. Violence towards women in the household is still fairly common.
The campaigners say that they hope with enough support, they can put pressure on the government to do more to protect women’s rights. Although, some doubt that Afghan society is ready for such a bold, modern move. Many opponents to the campaign say that the names of females “are sacred like their headscarves” and that the tradition is rooted too deeply in Afghan values for a small campaign to make a difference. Despite this, the campaigners strive for an Afghan society in which a woman’s name and identity will no longer be shameful, and that they will no longer be viewed as second class citizens. They say the practice serves no logical purpose and only provides men with “ownership over a woman’s body”.
Hassan Rizayee, an Afghan sociologist says;
“This is a traditional and cultural issue; it needs a long-term cultural struggle and fight…by weakening tribal cultures, and awareness through the media, this type of thinking about women could be changed.”