‘The People Follow the Mullah, and the Mullah Follows the People’: Politics of Aid and Gender in Afghanistan post-2001

Wu, Joyce
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The Bernard and Audre Rapoport Center for Human Rights and Justice

This article is based on two months of fieldwork conducted in Kabul, Afghanistan in 2010. It is a feminist reflection on the politics of aid, gender, and religion within the context of civil society organizations’ efforts to address violence against women in Afghanistan. As gender and ending violence against women are “sensitive” topics in the country, donors increasingly adopt an Islamic framework when engaging with men and local communities. While Afghan women’s organizations have always engaged with a broad spectrum of stakeholders, amongst whom are the religious clerics and scholars, I argue that a donor-driven approach that treats Islam as the only entry-point not only simplifies the complexities of Islam, but it also creates a distinction between “religious” vs. “secular” dichotomy which makes the work of local women’s organisations and activists even more challenging as their engagement strategies are narrowed.