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It is illegal in today's Afghanistan if a strange male hears a woman's voice or the sound of her footsteps. The man will be provoked and it is the fault of the woman and she should be punished. This is an example of misinterpretation of Islam being enforced by the Taliban in Afghanistan since 1996.

Afghan women suffer from disparity in terms of education, employment and participation in their country's development process. Traditionally, women in Afghanistan have had an important symbolic role as the core or heart of the society. Women have been seen as the primary vehicle for passing Islam from one generation to the next. Above all, women in Afghanistan symbolize honor. However, Islamic extremists believe that educating women or allowing them to move freely in public engulfs the nation in sexual anarchy, destroys the family and brings dishonor to the society. These declarations have been proclaimed in the name of holy Islam and the rich culture of the Afghans. Islam is an important part of Afghan's lives, as it defines their roles and lays out the principles for leading one's life. However, due to the lack of Islamic knowledge by self-declared Afghan religious leaders, there exists in Afghanistan today a distorted version of religion. Under the Islamic laws, a woman has the right to education and work outside her home.

The restrictions on women's status and movement in Afghanistan are due to the country's political instability during the past two decades. With the advent of political conflict and religious movement, women's development issues and gender policies have been changing frequently within radical Islamic and liberal ideas since the 1970s. The status of women has been perceived to be a great socio-political problem. With the flight of half the Afghan population in exile, the issue of women is take outside of the country.

Away from the culture of oppression, there must be ways and means to challenge patriarchal ideology. I believe a process of social change including community mobilization in favor of women's empowerment is needed to sustain their participation and overcome resistance. Thus, to this participation, the Afghan women in exile must shoulder the responsibility to take action and critically quest the silence of causes and effects of oppression. As an Afghan woman, having been displaced for more than two decades, and based on my field of experience, I believe there is a need for strong movement through community organization to promote Afghan women's active participation in the restoration of the legitimate rights, which they enjoyed before.

I propose a program of nonformal education for community development for a group of Afghan women in exile as agents of change. The program will be conducted in the form of a pilot workshop with the assistance of an internal organization, which is committed to the Afghan Women's Organizations in Pakistan, the neighboring country of Afghanistan.

The activities of the training program will be carried out according to short-term and long-term objectives. This program will be offered as an alternative approach to the Western paradigm of women's development. Formulation of this program will be based on Islamic knowledge, the Holy Quran and Hadith (the sayings of Prophet Mohammed) that will foster and support indigenous knowledge.

I begin by looking at the socio-cultural background of Afghanistan. I describe the frequent political changes and highlight the main problems interfering in the process of social and economic development in the country. Then, I review traditional community history and look at the process of women's development and gender policy in Afghanistan. Against these perspectives, I try to explore an alternative solution for the empowerment of Afghan women through nonformal education. I am seeking a suitable approach and search for useful lessons in order to bring change and sustainability in the condition of the lives of Afghan women. Because the main focus of this program is on the empowerment of women, I discuss this topic in order that the reader can see different versions of empowerment in the context of the West and a traditional society like Afghanistan