Monday, May 3, 2010

PROVOKED!!!! a late review for Afghan women

Provoked, a real story of a battered woman that changed the British legal system to reconsider the conditions of an an accused woman on the basis of having been provoked. Or in simple words, on the basis of reaction of a 'reasonable' person who commits an act in the dire circumstances where the person has no self control. Kiranjeet Ahluwalia was an Indian origin living in London with her husband and two sons and had suffered being beaten, raped, dragged, impoverishment and betrayal from her husband for 10 years. All in silence. After she is convicted, she says that she found 'freedom' in jail, where she learned a language to express her emotions, found coping mechanisms with the help of other women and felt empowered. With the help of South Hall Black Sisters (NGO) she was able to appeal against her initial verdict and the judge accepted the murder of her husband as a reaction of anger ( maybe uncontrolled self-defense) of a beaten, abused and battered woman. The case from 1989-1992 is marked as a point in the history of legislative reform towards women's freedom.

To our surprise, there is nothing new in this story that we dont know about. A woman victim of domestic violence. Or to say, an Asian woman who considered self-defence as shameful and accepted silence as the family honor. However, what was very though-stimulating for me more than anything in this story was empowerment, that didnt come through imported liberation based on utopian claims. But empowerment of a woman's mind, through observing, participating and questioning the sociality of life of other women and putting her own life in that context or sociality. This is a key lesson for alot of us trying to 'gender-equalize' the women of Afghanistan, that the only way for a woman to be empowered is to feel empowered.

In less than a second click, I found 5 million entries for the term 'empowerment' and that itself shows its a bookish and at the same time individual relativist term. A credible online journal of encyclopedia defines empowerment as below :

'the process of gaining access and developing one's capacities with a view of participating actively in shaping own life and that of one's community in economic, social, and political terms. Forms of collective action by marginalized and unerprivileged groups which, by articulating and organizing their interests, which to improve their social positions'.

Many would say this is a rhetoric, but I think the millions of money poured into 'women empowerment projects' do not have the element of empowerment, a space for mental transformation of a woman to not only understand herself but to understand herself in relation to her surroundings and that transformation creates a spontaneous impulse and that is what i call empowerment.

Our experiences of the past 9 years of 'projectization' seems empty of such a space, or maybe in the pace of 'result-based' temptations, we ran out of creativity. In no sense, I would discard the efforts of the past 9 years in Afghanistan for the women of this land. We have so many products of the tireless efforts and many of us,I am sure, are not only empowered but FEEL empowered.

Here I am talking about the masses, the majority of women who are illetrate, beaten up, helpless and of course the VICTIM. We somehow forget that we need to let the victim speak for themselves rather than us speaking for them. A woman has to first configure her own situation and come to terms with such a comprehension or configuration, only then she would be able to absorb external intervention and that would be based on her own claim for an external support. By external, I mean outside of her own self.

I understand how difficult would this be, but no impossible. Such an outcome would entail a great deal of sophistication, patience and a bit of creativity, that our rapidly globalizing world doesnt have for us, especially not for the Afghan women. Many people tell me ' We dont have any responsibility to teach Afghans how to treat their women' and they forget that one definition for globalization can also be humanity. If you are running dont forget to give hand to a fallen down!!!

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