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Ashraf Zahedi


Project: Gender Mainstreaming in Afghanistan: Cultural and Structural Impediments

Gender inequality has been one of the major obstacles in Afghanistan’s socio-economic developments. Since the regime change in Afghanistan in 2001, a number Afghan’s governmental and non-governmental organizations along with international organizations have embarked upon improving the status of Afghan women. These organizations have been involved in gender mainstreaming and made efforts to raise gender awareness, build gender equality into social policies, and use gender-specific interventions to improve Afghan women’s position in the family and society.

The pace and processes of gender mainstreaming, however, have been undermined by cultural tensions over the role and place of women. Set backs in gender mainstreaming have also been caused by intertwined cultural and structural factors: the lack of institutional support, limited political will on the part of state officials, insufficient resources, and an inhospitable political environment due to the “war on terror” and reaction to it. The absence of a viable women’s movement and the low-profile presence of women’s groups have effectively undermined women’s ability to pressure the state into using its national machineries for gender mainstreaming and in turn for the advancement of women.

By drawing on gender mainstreaming literature, reports of the Ministry of Women’s Affairs, Afghanistan’s non-governmental organizations, and the United Nations Development Fund for Women, and interviews with prominent Afghan women I will highlight the success and failure of gender mainstreaming programs in Afghanistan.


Ashraf Zahedi, Ph.D. is a sociologist and human rights activist. She has extensive teaching and research experiences. She has taught at Boston University, Suffolk University, and Santa Clara University. Ashraf has conducted research at many universities including Stanford University, the Institute for Research on Women and Gender. Her research interests include political ideology, social policy, socio-economic disparities, human rights, social movements, and transnational feminism. In addition to her academic work, she has been involved in the works of social justice. Ashraf is the recipient of many leadership awards including the “Special Congressional Recognition,” of the United States House of Representatives.


Behind the Veil - BBRG scholar Ashraf Zahedi quoted in Christian Science Monitor article