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Afghan Women Have The Right To A Name

My Goat. My Weak One. My Chicken. As reported by a New York Times article, these demeaning names are just a few of the many used by Afghan men when referring to their wives in public.

 A social media campaign pioneered by young women has been causing a social stir around the world, particularly in Afghanistan. The campaign, using the hashtag #WhereIsMyName, is meant to challenge the Afghan custom of never using a married woman’s name in public.

Traditionally, the sharing of one’s wife or mother’s name in public is a great offense to her honor. In the cases where women are not accompanied by a male, either a husband, brother or son, they are simply referred to as “Aunt.”

The goal of the campaign is to “challenge women to reclaim their most basic identity,” according to the New York Times. To do this, activists and supporters of the campaign make efforts to uproot the ancient taboos that stop men from sharing women’s names in public.

Member of the Herat provincial council Somaia Ramish said she believed that women have been systematically erased throughout history and “reduced to their relations with men.”

“The child comes out of the mother’s womb, but in no document relating to the child – from infancy to old age – does the mother’s name get registered,” Ramish said. “The interesting thing, however, is that the mother then, out of habit and tradition, becomes identified by the child. The woman whose name has no place in laws all of a sudden becomes ‘the mother of Ahmad’ or ‘the mother of Mahmoud.’”

The campaign, which started small as a social media effort, has grown to gain the attention of major media platforms. It has sparked a discussion that reached from its origin in the west Herat Province to different parts of the world.

To continue to grow the effort, activists challenged celebrities and government officials to “share the names of their wives and mothers.”

And recently, the campaign’s efforts to reach Afghanistan’s major political figures have succeeded. Artists, senior government officials, and members of the Afghan Parliament have been publicly declaring their support by sharing the names of their female family members.

Despite the rise in the campaign’s popularity, many Afghan men still believe that the sharing of these names goes against a centuries-old tradition, and that the new practice is both dishonoring “sacred customs” and their “wives and mothers.”

Supporter Bahar Sohaili told the New York Times that “she hoped men would look inward and consider why it was taboo to write a woman’s name, even in a doctor’s prescription.”

“This is just a spark,” she said, “the posing of a question mostly to the Afghan women about why their identity is denied.”

Today, the campaign continues to grow, and in its goal to get women to question their right to a name, it is succeeding.

Featured Image by ResoluteSupportMedia on Flickr
Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

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