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Afghanistan: International Women's Day

14-03-2002 News Release 02/11

On Saturday 9 March (instead of Friday, the Muslim day of rest) the ICRC, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and the Afghan Red Crescent Society (ARCS) jointly celebrated International Women's Day in Kabul. This was the first time in 11 years that International Women's Day had been openly celebrated in Afghanistan.

Over 130 male and female ARCS staff and volunteers attended the event. Together with representatives of the government and of local and foreign NGOs, they paid tribute to the women who had played a crucial role in helping the most vulnerable inhabitants of this war-torn country to survive.

Until recently, very few women were allowed to work. Within the ARCS, only a small number of female staff and volunteers remained active, mainly in the health field (hospitals and limb-fitting centres). " For us, it is a very special day which acknowledges the work and courage of women in difficult times " , said one woman volunteer. " It also a day of hope. "

Their male colleagues were very supportive of the event: " It brought together all ARCS staff, providing women in particular with an opportunity to meet old friends with whom they had worked on humanitarian projects in the past, " said Obaidullah B. Abidy, a senior assistant at the ICRC delegation in Kabul. " The atmosphere was great. "

Various Red Cross and Red Crescent projects specifically targeting women's needs are currently under way. Recently the ICRC helped the ARCS train 40 female teachers in Kabul, preparing them for the reopening of girls'schools. Together with the Federation, it also plan s to provide training for former ARCS female volunteers. In schools and health facilities, female staff will take part in mine-awareness programmes for women and girls, and some hospitals receiving ICRC assistance plan to open gynaecological and obstetrics wards. Another ICRC project is a physiotherapy clinic for women and children who have lost limbs in mine accidents or suffer from other physical disabilities. The clinic will also serve as a training centre for female physiotherapy students.