The Journey of a Women’s Rights Activist in Kurdistan

BY: Tanya Parasher, Women’s Voices Now, 01.04.2021

The fight for women’s rights in Kurdistan has not been an easy one, but Kurdish women are always finding new ways to advocate for important issues in their country.

Photo courtesy of Shanga Karim.

For decades, Kurdish women have been battling patriarchy and oppression, making it impossible for them to feel safe and protected in their own homes. Over the past few years, women’s rights has become a focal point in Kurdistan. With the rise of progressive movements and feminist activism, gender equality has drastically improved around the country. Today, women continue their battle against the patriarchal mindset that is deeply rooted in Kurdish culture.

Growing up in Kurdistan, Shanga Karim was exposed to the country’s inequalities at a young age. As a child, she first noticed the effects of gender inequality when young girls were not allowed to play in playgrounds with boys their age. Shanga was lucky enough to grow up in a supportive and open-minded family — she was raised by her parents and sisters, who all advocated for women’s rights. Of her ten sisters, eight of them were older than Shanga and served as role models throughout her upbringing.

“Being raised in a family that understood the traditional and cultural difficulties Kurdish people faced inspired me to advocate for women’s rights… my parents knew in their hearts that they needed to help me focus on my dreams, study, and stand on my feet,” Karim said.

Once Shanga opened her eyes to other issues in her community, she grew increasingly interested in the difficulties that Kurdish women face in their daily lives, such as honor killing, domestic abuse, and female genital mutilation (FGM). After finishing her first year at a university, she started working with an independent newspaper, Hawlati, with a goal to advocate for women’s rights and freedom. (Hawlati has since stopped publishing due to economic issues).

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