Veiled Courage: Inside the Afghan Women's Resistance.
By Cheryl Benard. Broadway Books, 2002.
Cheryl Benard heartily discusses
her views about Afghan women and the works of the Revolutionary Association of
the Women of Afghanistan (RAWA). Most of
the book is about RAWA, its founding and influential characters, and its
activities in helping Afghan women.
Established in 1970s, RAWA was a clandestine organization originally
engaged in anti-Soviet activities. In
early 1980s the organization moved its headquarter to
the border area in Pakistan
and began offering its services to Afghan refugees. Soon, RAWA emerged as a
major organization gathering information, gauging public attitudes,
raising consciousness, publishing a magazine, educating women and children,
offering health and social services, combating violence against women, and
assisting and empowering female victims of rape and abuse. While RAWA’s
activities in refugee camps in Pakistan
faced numerous obstacles, in Taliban controlled areas
they were extremely dangerous. Benard describes many of these activities and gives us a
sense of characters and views of individuals whose courage and dedication made
it possible for RAWA to achieve its objectives.
A special chapter is devoted to author’s view of Afghani men, their
involvements in and support for RAWA, women’s ideas about men, and RAWA’s efforts in changing men’s ideas about women. In the wake of the recent American
intervention in Afghanistan,
Benard feels that RAWA needs to adapt to new changes
and increase its involvement and impact on Afghan society. She discusses the
following alternatives: a political party, a more traditional women’s movement,
an NGO focusing on food, educational, and social service efforts, and an
“oppositional group with the capacity to work underground.” This informative and passionate book has
been put together quickly in response to recent changes in political fortunes
and the need for information about women in Afghanistan. Though non-academic and market driven, the
book helps the reader to appreciate the difficulties experienced by Afghani
women in a patriarchal society. – A. A.
Mahdi, Ohio Wesleyan