The message, not the messenger. The importance of context over personal prescriptions.


I took a day off! So I am releasing these drafts from its queue.

I am almost completely consumed in work. I love what I am doing because of the flexibility it offers me to try new methods and content, for inspiring a change in mindset towards women’s rights. Within my circle, we work as a team involved in creating something. Each teaches me and shares with me something different, refreshing and new. My Afghan colleagues stream-lines work for contextualization. My F.I. team in India and London shares with me new and interesting information; and we think about the utility of every single piece of idea/information; how can we use it to impact upon a person’s thinking. How will a conservative person or a person not familiar with this new approach receive the information? Is there a way of better delivering the information?

The process of conceptualization to fruition is extremely creative. During the process of research and write-up I am always deliberating the recipients’ thoughts, or thinking about their thought-processes. It is difficult, but not impossible. In a way it humbles me. I no longer think of conservative or prejudiced mindsets as necessarily idiotic (and believe me, there are worse words I have used). I take it with a more sociological approach, and inquiry that is less judgemental or conclusive, and more so introspective (seeing into myself for my biases) and contextual (seeing into the context of theirs). How does the context place the way one perceives something? And if I cannot impact upon the perception, then can I take my inquiry at a more basic level and impact upon the context from which something is perceived.

These are the kinds of questions F.I. engages itself. So when I write up content, I attempt to refrain from writing my voice into it (my assumptions and thought processes), but their voices (their assumptions and thought processes). I was reading and analyzing Anna’s (an F.I. colleague and friend) work; suggesting the basis that harm caused by a husband against the wife is a cause for separation (in legal terms, “separation due to harm”). We were deliberating Shariah-based arguments for lawyers to use in courts to petition for a woman’s release from a violent home through a fault-based dissolution which would entitle her to her dowry. It was interesting how I stood back when Anna suggested that “there are certain forms of harm that are legitimate and there are those that are not”. It is a radical u-turn from the current advocacy that strongly states that no harm is justified. But Anna begins with drawing the distinction between legitimate beating and non-legitimate beating; because people’s thinking here arise from this concept. Then through the use of verses, semantics, logic, emotion, and traditions; somehow the argument is eventually shaped to arrive at the conclusion that therefore most harms practised in Afghanistan is not legitimate, and it therefore serves a cause for dissolution. I don’t necessarily agree to this approach of advocacy; and most women activists will probably not too. But I am not the one who needs to be convinced. I am not the judge in court residing a VAW case, nor am I the violent husband. We must always remember to direct the arguments to the context we service and are served. Of course in prescribing such non-direct messaging, we must also analyze ethical considerations and potential unintended consequences that may arise from it.

In Afghanistan, I work with 3 women activists at the Women Children Legal Research Foundation, and a number of lawyers at Medica Afghanistan. For the former, we design legal awareness programs on women’s rights targeted to parliamentarians, activists, economic decision makers, Mullahs, and lawyers. Behind me is a team of lawyers (mostly) in India and London who resources and advises me on best practices and innovative/progressive information on women’s rights that can be integrated into our programs. Some of the legal resources are assimilated into my work with lawyers at Medica Afghanistan. How can we strategically litigate? How can gender-equitable resources in Islam be integrated into defence statements to substantiate statutory law? How are they effectively presented? How do you references these resources, for effect of force and persuasion? Behind every single provision of law is a history to legislation; and that history dates all the way back to the formation of a body of law we call the Shariah. So scholarly reasoning and rationale is pertinent to discovering what effect the legislation intended to have, and whether by applying the law in one way or the other, we are giving effect to its purpose.

The Shariah is not a monolithic system of law; it is not consistent either and an in depth reading will lead to a discovery of contradictions. Contradictions and inconsistency may carry a negative connotation. But I see the potential of diversity; differences in opinions and applications. I prefer this to a single unalterable and unaltered system of law insensitive to time and changes in the social dynamic, which whether for the better or worse still alters the impact of law on the people. But there is a utility for gender-equality; that can be interpreted into and used. It remains an instrument with an untapped potential for women’s rights in this country. I do not necessarily subscribe to any ideology or legal system. In fact F.I. does not either. We use what works. I think this has been lacking in most international organizations’ approach to this country thus far. And what a waste it is…


A big kiss and thank you to the F.I. team for making life so pleasurable because of your great work and dedication.



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