When a woman gets married in Afghanistan, her name isn’t on the wedding invitations. When she gives birth, her name is left off the child’s birth certificate. And when she dies, her headstone reads, “Mr. X’s mother, daughter, wife or sister.”
In a patriarchal, deeply conservative culture, it’s inappropriate to openly refer to Afghan women by their first names. Instead, they’re called ‘Mother of X’ or “wife of X.”
But a group of activists is trying to change that. #WhereIsMyName, a campaign that started on Facebook, is a literal challenge to get people to say Afghan women’s names.
#WhereIsMyName: Reclaiming women’s names
The movement began in Herat, a town in western Afghanistan. Thanks to wider access to the internet in the country, it quickly spread.
“To be called by our name is a basic right of identity,” activist Tahmina Arian told CNN. “And it has not yet been given to Afghan women.”
The goal of the campaign is simple: Challenge men in Afghanistan to publicly say their mother, sister, or wife’s name. Encourage women to reclaim their names, so they aren’t just reduced to their relationships with men in their families.
Over the course of the last two months, the Facebook page has steadily gained followers and its impact is starting to reframe the conversation in Afghanistan.
A man following the page reached out to the group with a message of support and attached his wedding invitation containing his bride’s full name.
Arian says that was one of the first times she had ever seen a woman’s name on an Afghan wedding invitation.
The practice of referring to women in relation to men is Afghan tribal custom. Women are identified by their relationship to men: as a mother or daughter, wife or sister.
But since the fall of the Taliban, women are gradually making gains that were long denied them, such as schooling.
And, as the #WhereIsMyName campaign shows, the changes are still taking shape.