Feature: Learning driving gets popularity among Afghan women in insurgency-battered Jawzjan province

Source: Xinhua| 2019-01-22 17:34:06|Editor: Xiang Bo
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by Abdul Haleem, Jawid Omid

SHIBERGHAN, Afghanistan, Jan. 22 (Xinhua) -- Amid increasing violence in the troubled Jawzjan province in northern Afghanistan, women unbelievably are seen learning driving in the provincial capital Shiberghan to achieve gender equity.

"While men can drive why not women. We have talent and ability to contest the men in each field," Sadaf, 28, told Xinhua.

Checking her car before sitting behind steering wheel to drive, Sadaf, who like many Afghans goes by one name, whispered that having courage and hard work paves the way to overcome the challenges.

"Driving is an art, it could be a career and I like it," she said laughingly.

Nevertheless, she admitted that learning driving and driving a car by a woman in areas where people deeply believe in old traditions is very difficult if not impossible.

"To learn driving and get driving license, I had faced variety of problems ranging from family opposition to cultural barriers and security threats," Sadaf murmured.

"Many people used bad language against me when they saw me on driver's seat on the streets and even some warned me of dire consequences," she recalled.

Jawzjan province is among the troubled Afghan provinces where Taliban militants are active and occasionally targets government interests including security personnel, government employees, roads, bridges and educational centers.

Ignoring security threats and tribal traditions that prevent women from going out of home, the valiant Sadaf said "we should do drive like men do."

Besides security incidents, women in Jawzjan's provincial capital Shiberghan began learning driving over the past few years in courses administered by government and private entities and so far more than 100 women and girls have got drivers' licenses.

Wearing sunglasses and attired in a semi-western style dress, the stylish Sadaf lamented that she could not go to rural areas because of security threats, saying she hoped to drive across the province once peace is restored.

The number of women driving in Shiberghan city has been on the rise over the past couple of years despite security threats, harmful traditions and cultural barriers, Sadaf said.

However, she believed that the increasing number of women driving in the provincial capital encouraged them to drive more even outside the city.

In the relatively peaceful cities like Kabul, Herat and Mazar-i-Sharif, the number of women driving their car or a taxi is a normal phenomenon, but in a far-flanged city like Shiberghan where hardliner groups like Taliban and Islamic State are active and women need courage to learn driving.

"In the first days of driving many drivers and passersby disturbed me by using abusive languages but gradually the situation returned to normal and nowadays I drive my car normally without any fear in Shiberghan streets," another lady driver Sonia Aidin told Xinhua.