Kabul: In many countries like China and European nations, it is not uncommon to see women driving taxis, buses and even heavy trucks. But in Afghanistan, a conservative Muslim country, to see a woman driver is still a rarity.
That was why when a young lady was seen driving in a street in the eastern part of capital Kabul, she was followed by curious onlookers, Xinhua news agency reported. Some young kids flying kites and riding horses and elderly people in their yards had to stop at what they were doing to take a look at the young lady-driver. It was as if they have seen a ghost.
"I am trying to learn how to drive so that I can drive in going to the university and in visiting friends and relatives. I also intend to drive to my office once I get employed after graduation, " said the young lady on condition of anonymity.
The lady driver, in her twenties and wearing a scarf, said in other countries, women can drive cars and even airplanes. "Why can 't we do it in Afghanistan?" she asked. "We should make women and men equal," another lady-driver, who introduced herself by only one name, Laila, told Xinhua.
Women in Afghanistan, especially in the countryside where people deeply believe in traditions, usually prefer to stay at home or do light jobs. They also do not usually reveal their names to strangers. Although there is no government ban for women to drive, it is very rare to see women drivers in Kabul and other Afghan cities.
During the reign of the Taliban, with its brutal Islamic rule, women were not allowed even to walk in streets without a veil and without a male companion. They have outlawed schools for girls and confined women to their homes.
It was only after the Taliban were toppled in 2001 that Afghan women began to regain their freedom. With education and influences from Western democratic countries over the past 13 years, some women are now breaking from traditions and are seen driving in the city's congested roads.
Women in today's Afghanistan are now involved in social, political and cultural activities. In fact, there are now women holding government posts. There are women in the cabinet and some are parliamentarians, journalists, traders, singers and entertainers, something that was unheard of during the Taliban rule.
Although the Taliban-led militancy is a continuing threat to the country's security, the bulk of the Afghan populace, including women, are serious in moving their country towards more freedom and progress.
One observer said Afghan women definitely would play a major role in restoring the country's stability as soon as the election deadlock is settled.