COURAGEOUS woman who has dared speak out against the brutal
cultural traditions of her country, met up this week with local
volunteers who raise money for women in Afghanistan
Suraya Pakazd, the founder of Afghanistan's
Voice of Women Organisation (VWO), was at the First Lisburn
Presbyterian Church as a guest of Christian Aid, raising public
awareness about the plight of women in her home land.
At the weekly bread and cheese lunch
fundraiser event in the church hall, Suraya said she was
delighted to have the chance to meet the volunteers.
" My visit will allow me to tell the people
who benefit from the money raised here, how it happens," she
Suraya, 37, was married in Kabul at the
tender age of 14 to a man 13 years her senior. They have three
daughters and three sons, her eldest being 22 years old.
Her marriage is highly unusual in comparison
to most Afgan women because her husband treats her with respect,
not only encouraging but supporting the charitable work she does
which is supported by Christian Aid.
In 1998 Suraya founded the VWO during the
most difficult period of the Taliban regime.
"With the support of a few Afghan men and
women, the organisation carried out very small activities
underground such as basic education projects for marginalised
women and girls" she explained. "VWO gradually expanded and we
now have three offices in different locations of the western
The charity's main goal is to strive for the
freedom and empowerment of women in Aghan society through the
stipulations mapped out in the resolutions of the United
Hazel McCall, Lisburn area volunteer
organiser for Christian Aid, welcomed Suraya's visit. "Being
here will encourage our volunteers. It is nice to be able to put
a face to the organisation our work helps," she said.
Suraya, who will travel to Washington to
receive a 2008 Women of Courage award from the world's most
powerful woman, US Secretary of State Dr. Condoleeza Rice,
believes Afghanistan will never truly prosper without the
contributions of its population.
She said: "What does it mean to have a
beautiful country if half the population is ignored?
"First of all the problems of women must be
addressed to improve their status in social, cultural and
financial terms by promoting human rights, women's rights and
providing legal and social assistance to them. In the period
since the fall of the Taliban there has been considerable change
in the legal and institutional framework concerning the
situation of women in Afghanistan but there is still some way to