Afghanistan: Human rights and women in Islam

After identifying many misconceptions about human and women's rights in Afghanistan, EAI used radio dramas and discussion groups to illustrate how human rights are compatible with and enshrined in Islamic culture. 2007-2009

A Project of
Afghanistan, Flora Family Foundation

The program not only had a good effect on my life but, from what I have seen, a good effect on the lives of all those who listen to it.

– Listening Group Facilitator in Parwan Province

EAI’s 2007-2009 program Human Rights and Women in Islam used radio and discussion groups to highlight the ways that human rights are not only compatible with Islamic culture and texts but supported by a number of verses. With generous support from the Flora Family Foundation, EAI implemented a human rights program designed to empower rural women through radio programming, leadership training, and women’s listening groups. The program increased awareness of existing laws and services that support women and girls and spurred demand for additional reforms and increased services while changing attitudes about the role of women and girls within Afghan society. Testimonials and experiences of rural women were brought to a national audience by EAI’s dynamic Afghan gender-balanced team.


EAI produced and broadcast 100 episodes of the radio drama series “My Rights, Your Rights, Our Rights in the Light of Islam.” The radio program was designed to tackle women’s issues. Messaging for the shows drew upon the Islamic Declaration of Human Rights. The show’s characters explored these issues in the context of their Muslim faith and family dynamics.

In addition, the radio program “Our Beloved Afghanistan” exposed Afghan citizens to some of the inspirational stories and successes of leading Afghan women. The programming provided hope and knowledge about women’s rights across the country. The combination of the drama series “My Rights, Your Rights, Our Rights in the Light of Islam” and “Our Beloved Afghanistan” inspired social change at the community level. The listening groups strengthened community ties becoming a support network for women who are often isolated from one another.

Women’s listening circles were set up in response to the difficulties faced by the human rights training team in engaging rural women in rights-based conversations, due to the cultural restrictions of their movements. The listening circles allowed for more active knowledge exchange with attendees asking questions and sharing their experiences. The personalization of the dialogue helped women to retain the information they heard on the radio programming. This approach removed the social isolation many Afghan women face with little to no opportunity to meet women outside of their family. The listening groups provided them with a safe environment to connect.

In terms of defining human rights in an Afghan context, based on our experience working with rural populations across Afghanistan, and the types of rights our Afghan participants communicated, EAI intentionally designed the project to address a broad definition of human rights abuses. This includes not only violence against civilian populations by organized armed groups but also the denial of basic social services and women’s rights. For example:

  • The right to basic education for women and children;
  • the right to seek medical care;
  • the right to participate in skill-building activities;
  • the right to claim inheritance in order to support families;
  • the right to choose not to enter a forced or early child marriage;
  • the right to vote in government elections.

Not only did we discuss human rights, but EAI Afghan staff demonstrated the promotion of human rights. To increase access to information the team provided satellite radio receivers to ensure women’s right to information in highly marginalized communities. EAI mobilized communities to conduct human rights training workshops, in certain areas with mixed-gender groups, to support people’s right to information, informal education, and the right to engage in dialogue with peers to discuss human rights in the Islamic faith. EAI’s in-depth knowledge and connection to communities in all provinces in Afghanistan enabled us to successfully negotiate with conservative male leaders to allow women to leave their family compounds in order to participate in women’s listening groups.  

"The most important concept we learned was that women have the right to choose in marriage." - Listening Group Participant

Impact & Reach of this Project


listeners reached in Afghanistan

7 Million

people reached via satellite radio network


of communities surveyed asked for more human rights training and related support


Having listened to an episode of “Our Beloved Afghanistan” about the right of women to work outside their homes, a women’s group in Paghman district contacted the EAI team. They had learned that in order to work they needed to obtain identity cards. They requested EAI travel to their town to take photographs of the listening circle members so that they could obtain the necessary i.d.  

In the Panjab district of Bamiyan, following an episode that discussed forced marriage, the unmarried women in the listening circle jointly demanded to their parent that would be consulted about any prospective husbands and that their opinion should be taken into account before promising marriage.

Views on girls’ education were also positively influenced by the series. In some areas, women invited men to listen to the programs with them. In one village, there was a man who did not agree with girls education and would not allow his daughter to attend school. After listening to the program and talking with the group, he changed his mind and agreed to let her go.

The Women’s Listening Circles' now function as a support group for women of the community, and their utility extends far beyond the original educational objective of the format.” External Project Evaluator