THE PRIVILEGE OF BEING ABLE TO EARN A LIVING
IWAS AT A DINNER PARTY with some girlfriends recently. Over the course of the evening, one described the macho behaviour of her male colleagues, another vented about not getting the promotion she’d been hoping for and a third spoke about going back to school to get her M.B.A. As for me, I’d begun to realize that I work too much. The proof? I had to leave the dinner party early to write this editorial, which was due the following day.
Staring at the blank page on my computer screen, I thought back to the evening’s exchanges, and it struck me that our challenges as women in the West are so different from those of women in other parts of the world. If this editorial were for a publication in Kabul, Afghanistan, you wouldn’t see my face alongside it because that would be too dangerous. The content would be totally different. A magazine such as this one, put together mainly by women, might not even be allowed to exist. Since the Taliban recently regained power, Afghan women fear that they will no longer be able to earn a living or have access to education. The rights they have worked so hard to gain since 2001 are being taken away.
Since mid-August, Taliban sympathizers have been destroying images of women, tearing up posters on which they appear and painting over storefront and beauty-salon windows that have photos of female faces. And they’re not hiding their actions. A few days before I sat down to write this, a popular Afghan TV presenter, Shabnam Dawran, was restricted access to the station where she had been working for the past six years. Women are being erased from the public sphere.
I feel powerless in the face of what’s happening to these women and like I have a visceral closeness to them despite the 10,000 kilometres that separate us. When I think of them—imprisoned in a culture that flouts their fundamental rights—I know that adopting indifference to their reality is unacceptable.
Every woman, even a Western woman, suffers setbacks and has to deal with all kinds of injustices throughout her career. But let’s not forget how fortunate we are to have our freedom and the ability to go to school, earn an income, speak our minds and participate in the world economy. In spite of everything, we have to appreciate what we’ve gained over time and carefully preserve it.
Above all, let’s communicate with our elected representatives and let’s come up with concrete ways to support those women who do not have the same opportunities as we do simply because they were not born here.