A tribute to the fight of women and girls in Afghanistan

On Tuesday 8 March, International Women’s Day 2022, Monash University paid tribute to the women and girls of Afghanistan.

Monash University and the Faculty of Arts, in collaboration with the Embassy of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, Baran Entertainment and Helping Afghans platform by PBC Digital, presented a musical event to honour the courage and bravery of women in Afghanistan. The event, held at the Ian Potter Centre for Performing Arts, was simultaneously live-streamed across the Monash University and Monash Arts Facebook accounts.  

The event was attended by many dignitaries, scholars and performers from Australia and the Afghan diaspora. Monash’s Deputy Vice Chancellor and Vice President of Education, Professor Sharon Pickering, served as the master of ceremonies. During her opening address, Professor Pickering highlighted Monash’s long term investment in the women of Afghanistan through ongoing support of the Afghanistan National Institute of Music and the work conducted by the Monash Gender, Peace and Security Centre (GPS).

The event's highlights included a keynote speech by the Ambassador of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and Monash University Vice-Chancellor Professor Margaret Gardner AC. Professor Gardner spoke of how “It’s hard to fathom in 2022, that we seem to face again and again these sorts of threats to human rights.”

There were many performances on the night including two original pieces titled “Instrumental” and “Newborn Baby” performed by students of the Sir Zelman Cowen School of Music and Performance. In perhaps what was the biggest performance of the night, Monash students collaborated with Afghanistan’s national singer Farhad Darya to perform and dedicate songs as a message of solidarity to the women and girls of Afghanistan.

Another key event was the panel discussion, moderated by Federal MP Ms Katie Allen. The diverse panel discussed the many ways in which people both outside and inside of Afghanistan could mobilise to support Afghan people. Panellists included Dr Karima Faryabi (Former Minister of Economy, Afghanistan), Ms Durkhanai Ayubi (Author, Parwana), Mr Sawiz Sawizyar (Helping Afghan Platform), Ms Farkhondeh Akbari (Postdoctoral Fellow at GPS).

The panel opened with a statement on how the second Taliban regime is “worse than before” as described by Dr Karima Farayabi. This sentiment was echoed by fellow panellist Ms Arkbari, who spoke about the pain experienced by the women who have fought for their rights for the last twenty years. “You have to be reduced to shadows - that’s the message being sent.”

In an effort to acknowledge the outstanding contribution, achievements, and dedication of some Australian and Afghan individuals in support of Afghan women and girls in different sectors, the Ambassador of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, Mr Wahidullah Waissi, presented a series of awards on behalf of the people of Afghanistan. These recognition awards were given to broadcaster and Monash Arts alumna Yalda Hakim, Professor Jacqui True, Senator the Honourable Marise Payne and Afghan activist/actress Habiba Askar. The final award of the night was in memory of the women and girls of Afghanistan who have sacrificed their lives to fight for their rights.

Reflecting on the evening, Ms Akbari surmised, “It was moving that we paused to hear the singing voices of Afghan women and girls living under the shadows, honoured their bravery and courage for fighting for their rights at the cost of their lives, and stood together to support their cause. On the special day of International Women’s Day, solidarity and tribute events that turn the spotlight on women in difficult circumstances, reaffirm our vision for gender equality and send a clear message that gender-based discrimination is not tolerated in any part of the world.”

A recording of the event can be viewed on the Monash Gender, Peace and Security Centre’s website.