I'm copying the post below from a blogger called Azad Pashtun. I found it both well-written and important to share it on my blog. Enjoy!
My purpose in writing this entry is to spread awareness. I want more education and freedom for women because they are basic human needs. I want Pashtun women, actually all women, to play the vital role in development of humanity that I know they can play. We are losing all the talent of women to an unnecessarily rigid attitude. Once we see the benefits of treating women more nicely, we would not want to turn back. Here I have tried to list some ways better treatment of women can be achieved.
Talk to menTalk to men in your life. Ask them questions. Lead conversations to a point where they question their assumptions about women. Give them examples of the exploitation of women. Highlight how they are not allowed certain freedoms. Try to get them to put themselves in the shoes of women.
Men can get defensive when you speak about women's rights. Most men see the current order of gender relationships as natural. They consider it the right of men to control and also feed women. Men have always been telling each other names for not controlling their women enough. Yes they have several swear words to that effect. We all know them. Women are a symbol of honor and respect among their friends. So you must be careful when discussing women's rights with men.
Pashtun men are especially sensitive. While you discuss with them, do not be rigid in your stance. You must hear them out and then gently forward your point of view. Be especially careful when you speak to the elders. The elders are often very enthusiastic about continuing the old order of oppression. Most approve of even physical torture of women. After all many women are killed with the approval of the elders. Younger men consult them first and foremost. As a pashtun women's rights activist, you are scratching on a wound. Talk about zanana is indeed a very sensitive subject.
You will find younger men more open to your ideas. You can ask them questions and forward ideas more boldly. You should challenge their assumptions but always remain respectful. Though they may not have absorbed the values of their elders completely, they have learned to be very protective and possessive about the women in their lives. Being protective of course can be too much of a good thing as well.
Here are some more things you can do.
1: Teach your mother, sister or any woman in your family to read and write. Start today. I taught my mother to read and write and today she helps my nieces with their homework.
Arrange transport for school girls
2: Get together with others in your neighborhood or village and arrange transport for girls to go to school or college. You can involve the women of the families too. Make it easier for girls to go to school or college.
Form an alliance with the Imam
3: Get the imam of the mosque or local madrassah on your side. Persuade him to speak about the importance of girls education in his speeches and conversations. Almost everyone attends the Friday sermon. So try your best to persuade him to deliver a whole khuthbaa on the importance of education. Imams will sometimes pick a topic and discuss it on two or three Fridays continuously. You can have him speak about rights of women in a series of lectures. Hardly any percent imams agree with the Taliban so don't worry. You will not be facing too much rigidity. Keep at it.
Reach out to male kids
4: Visit your local school and talk to the teachers. Give them brochures if you have any. Write articles and give them to the teachers. Discuss the rights of women with them. It doesn't matter if you speak to a boys' school teachers. Awareness among men is the first step in giving women their rights of education, proper nutrition, freedom of choice, speech, etc. The teachers can speak to the boys in school and hence make them better men for the future. You can also suggest speech contests based the rights of women at school or madrassahs although doing it in the latter might be a challenge.
Socialize with the elders
5: As I said earlier village elders are who people listen to. You must get them on your side. Do not antagonize any of them. Older people like young men and women who say salaam to them, speak to them, give them social importance by inviting them for tea, etc. I know all of us give these respects to our elders anyway but since you have an agenda, a good one of course, you can take extra steps. Elders like to sit in a majilis and talk. Join them. They will be more open to your ideas over a nice of tea or kawa.
No matter who you meet always remember to promote better treatment of women. I am sure once you have begun, you will come up with your own innovative ways. I wish you all the best and God's help.