A start can be made in this direction with the establishment of a Malaysian support group for Afghan women, comprising all political parties, women organisations and human rights groups, to work for the protection of human rights for women and children in Afghanistan.
The current international outrage at the medieval barbarism of the Taliban ruling militia in wanting to destroy the world's common heritage by obliterating the ancient Buddhist statues in Afghanistan has also focussed the spotlight in this year's International Women's Day on the plight of the Afghan women under Taliban rule.
Women's rights have gone backwards under the Taliban militia's rule in Afghanistan in the past 12 months, with tougher restrictions on their employment and no perceptible change to the de facto ban on education, with the vast majority of women in the desperately poor and isolated country unemployed, uneducated and ignorant of their basic rights.
The most visible change has been the growing number of women, mostly war widows, begging on the streets of the capital, Kabul, where one quarter of the population already depend on foreign relief handouts.
Single mothers and their children also make up a large portion of the estimated 170,000 refugees who have flooded into poorly equipped and overcrowded refugee camps in neighbouring Pakistan since September.
The Taliban's brand of Islam has been termed un-Islamic and condemned by most Muslim scholars and countires. Though most countries do not recognize the Taliban because of their human rights abuses, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia support the Taliban with money and supplies.
The plight of the women in Afghanistan includes the following:
In the Islamic world, at the beginning of Islam, there were no restrictions or prohibitions toward women to seek knowledge and education. There were many women scholars in the fields of religion, literature, music, education and medicine.
Before the Taliban occupation, women in Afghanistan were educated and employed: 50% of the students and 60% of the teachers at Kabul University were women, and 70% of school teachers, 50% of civilian government workers and 40% of doctors in Kabul were women.
If Malaysians can mark the 2001 International Women Day with a commitment
to establish a national support group to promote awareness of the tragic
human rights situation in Afghanistan and to advocate for social, political,
economic and civil rights of the Afghan women and girls in that country
to end the gross violation of basic human rights in Afghanistan, Malaysians
will be making a signal contribution to the protection and promotion of women rights not only in their own country but in the international arena as well.