Afghanistan’s first-ever national meeting of women legal professionals was held in Kabul from December 15 to 17, 2008. Nearly 180 women judges, prosecutors, defense lawyers, law professors, and Ministry of Justice staff from 11 provinces attended the three-day Women Legal Professionals Leadership Workshop.
To get to where they are today, women legal professionals in Afghanistan’s conservative society have already surmounted tremendous challenges in their pursuit of an education and a career. Many of these women, however, continue to face professional and personal obstacles that—due to the lack of women-specific professional trainings in Afghanistan—many are not able to cope with. Often, male colleagues view women’s role in the workplace as merely symbolic. Without the professional skills to assert themselves and to communicate effectively, many women legal professionals are relegated to low-profile assignments with little hope of advancement and endure continuing disrespect.
To fill this gap, the USAID-funded Afghanistan Rule of Law Project, in partnership with the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL), organized the Women Legal Professionals Leadership Workshop. Over three days, participants developed their leadership, communication, and time-management skills so they can better meet the challenges of their jobs and strike a more comfortable work-life balance. The workshop also gave participants the chance to network with other women legal professionals from all over the country – an opportunity many had not had before. All participants received a bag with training materials, public outreach materials with women’s rights messages, and a DVD with the complete Official Gazette, containing all of Afghanistan’s laws passed since 1964.
Judge Mahfoza, from Kabul, said the classes “were very effective, especially [the class on] smart principles for managing time and also handling the workload.” A second judge from Kabul, Judge Hamida, agreed and said the workshop was “a good way for meeting other women and connecting other provinces to the center of the country.”
At the closing ceremony, Minister of Women’s Affairs Hoson Banu Ghazanfar thanked USAID for organizing the workshop. “This is a very important initiative,” she said, “because the empowerment and building of self confidence among women is the key to women’s sucess in every field they work in. I have received empowerment trainings [like this one] and I know the value and importance of this and the impact it can make on people’s lives.”