March 8th marked International Women's Day. Over the past 100 years, the movement has helped make many changes to the lives of females around the world. And this year, the campaign was embraced in Afghanistan, where many young women are now starting to see changes in their lives.
For the first time ever, the Afghan women's Olympic basketball team played against a joint squad of the International Security Assistance Force and the US Embassy to commemorate the important day.
|Players from the Afghan Women's Olympic Basketball Team (in red), the International Security Assistance Forces (ISAF) and the United States Embassy Kabul compete in a women's basketball exhibition game to mark International Women's Day, at the ISAF headquarters in Kabul March 7, 2012. [REUTERS/Omar Sobhani]
ISAF and the US embassy held a friendly basketball game in Kabul with the Afghan women's Olympic basketball team. Women in sports is still a relatively new phenomenon in Afghanistan, where many girls and women still face struggles to get access to education or find jobs.
Nineteen-year-old Palwasha, started playing basketball four years ago, and is seeing an improvement in her country.
Palwasha, Afghan basketball player, said, "At first people disagreed with us exercising but now there is no problem. Our people encourage us and they are proud of us and they always say 'do your exercise because you are the pride of our country'."
Others say there is much more to be done.
Samera Asghari, Afghan basketball player, said, "Our aim is to make sports a part of the general culture in our society and to make sure that men don't question why women should participate in sports."
United States' ambassador to Afghanistan Ryan Crocker and the head of the Afghanistan Olympic committee General Zahir Aghbar were among those who watched game.
Ryan Crocker, US Ambassador to Afghanistan"As we celebrate the achievements of Afghan women over the last 10 years, we're delighted to have a chance to do so on the basketball court today, in honour of Afghan women and International Women's Day."
Women have won many battles to gain more rights and freedoms in Afghanistan since the rule of the Taliban was ended by U.S.-backed Afghan forces in 2001.
Despite some advances, women's rights to work and freedoms within their personal lives are still restricted by custom and law, especially in poor rural areas. The United States and NATO have repeatedly said reconciliation talks with the Taliban must contain guarantees that women's rights are protected.
(CNTV March 9, 2012)