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05 June 2014

Side-by-side for women's rights

Since January 2014, Masiha Fayez has been managing the Politics and Women's Rights department at Medica Afghanistan. For 10 years before that, she was responsible for the legal assistance provided by the women's organisation. The 40-year-old legal and political scientist studied at the University of Kabul and completed additional training on the issues of human rights and political advocacy work. Masiha Fayez lives with her husband and three children in Kabul.

Her commitment to women's rights began after her studies when she worked for the Afghan Women Lawyers Association and it then led her to Medica Afghanistan. "One of my tasks is analysing proposed legislation to see if it restricts or discriminates against women or violates their rights," explains Masiha Fayez. "We also check to see if national laws are in accordance with international agreements such as the UN CEDAW convention on discrimination against women, which was ratified by the Afghan government in 2003. Additionally, I work to ensure that women's rights are applied in family law."

For several years, Medica Afghanistan has been campaigning for marriages to be registered. "We would like to stem the number of forced and under-age marriages. These are both frequent causes of serious violence against women and girls, and they are also illegal according to Afghan law," states the legal expert. Part of the campaign consists of training courses for mullahs and judges on the correct law to be applied to marriages and on children's rights. The organisation also conducts dialogue with politicians. A further important task of the women's rights campaigners is to inform police and judges about the EVAW Law to eliminate violence against women which has been in existence since 2009 and to call on them to implement it consistently.

In order to strengthen women's rights across the country, Masiha Fayez also works within the Afghan Women's Network, which has over 100 member organisations and 5000 individual members, making it the largest women's network in Afghanistan.

The security situation in Afghanistan often makes it impossible for Medica Afghanistan staff members to attend external appointments. "Nonetheless, we do our best to support our clients," says Masiha Fayez. Her family is also behind her: "They all value my work and are convinced that it is having a positive influence upon the life of women in Afghanistan."

For the future, Masiha Fayez hopes to see a peaceful Afghanistan, equal rights for everyone, and an end to the violence against women and girls. "From our sister organisation medica mondiale, I hope they support our work by carrying out advocacy work at the international level in regard to women's rights. And that they remain at our side when we are exhausted or in danger."