By Dr Farooq Yousaf
Summary: Analyses of women’s rights and gender equality in Afghanistan have historically depicted a clear binary: patriarchal and conservative men resisting aspirational women. Neglected in these analyses are the many men who have spoken up for women’s rights and have worked for a gender-just society in Afghanistan. For instance, the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) in Afghanistan has had as many as 10,000 active members, out of which at times nearly 3,000 have been men. These figures may come as a surprise for those used to monolithic depictions of predictably patriarchal Afghan men. The cognitive double-take these numbers often elicit, reflects the limited space in international coverage given to the Afghan men who, while keeping a low profile, work alongside women activists for gender equality in the country. For this piece, we interviewed the men and women who have worked together to advance women’s rights and feminist peace in Afghanistan. We share their life histories, their motivations and rationales for engaging men in gender equality work, the nature of this work, the responses they get from their friends, families and communities in reaction to their work, their analysis of the Taliban takeover, what this means for their lives, and what they are doing now to continue to advance peace.