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PHOTO BLOG: Afghan women hit the catwalk in their struggle for equal rights

Source: Thu, 14 Feb 2013 00:26 GMT
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It may not look like a Paris or Milan catwalk but the message it delivers is as powerful as the flashing lights of the world’s top fashion shows.

This show took place in a dimly lit restaurant in the Afghan capital, Kabul, where a handful of models showed off an array of colourful outfits by a local designer.

The fashion show was organized by Young Women for Change (YWC), in an effort to break cultural taboos in Afghanistan’s conservative, patriarchal society, where women are often treated as second-class citizens.

YWC is made up of volunteers across the country, who organise events to help empower Afghan women and improve their lives through social and economic participation.

It is rare in Afghanistan to find a woman “on display.” showing her face and wearing an eye-catching outfit. Despite progress in education, voting and employment since the fall of the Taliban in 2001, Afghanistan was ranked the most dangerous country in the world for women in a poll by the Thomson Reuters Foundation in 2011.

Violence against women is widespread and women lag behind men in almost all aspects of life.

Last week John Allen, the outgoing commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan,  said that advancing women’s rights was key to preventing the Taliban from reimposing a radical form of Islam after most foreign troops leave by the end of 2014.

The mass drive to educate girls - whose enrolment now stands at almost four million, compared with zero during the time of the Taliban - is crucial in changing the tide of public opinion in the country of 30 million, Reuters reported Allen as saying.

NATO will in future play an important role in advocating "the rights of all Afghans in general, but women in particular," Allen said.

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