Arifa Paikar was born in Nahur district of Ghazni province in 1986. When she was 5, she had to migrate to Iran along with her family due to conflicts in the country. She returned in the last years of Taliban government and after their government was toppled she started going to school in Ghazni. After her school graduation she went to Kabul University in 2008 where she studied Philosophy and Sociology and got her degree in the field in 2011. In the next two years, she got her master’s degree in Law and Political Science from the same university. In 2011, Arifa was successful in gaining a scholarship for studying leadership in Arkansas University of United States. She has also represented Afghan women in women empowerment program led by US Department of Foreign Affairs. Additionally, she has represented Afghan youth in Young Leaders conferences held in India, Pakistan, UAE and Afghanistan. Arifa is founder of the first girls’ school in Nahur district. She worked for six with Swedish Committee in Ghazni and since the past three years she is working at Ministry of Higher Education.
In your Facebook profile you have written that you are a political activist. What is your definition of political activism?
My definition of this term might be different from how others define it. Nonetheless, the prevailing political situation has caused me to not only say that I am a political activist but also to create awareness among other specifically the girls on various issues. I am not a politicians but I know politics. I know that the nature of a country’s political system reflects what majority of its people think. I would try so that youths’ political participation increases. I would work of replacing symbolic politics with rational politics. My civil activities during the recent elections in the country have been admired at various circles. Lately we established a weekly magazine called ‘New Message’ and I am editor for its governance section.
How do you see opportunities for political activities of young women?
In general, the overall condition is somehow satisfactory for girls in the center but situation in the country cannot be judged by situation in Kabul. Still traditional mindset rules the society and hinders women’s way forward in all areas. Meanwhile, we must not forget the commitment of the international community that created many opportunities for girls. Over the last 13 years although no fundamental work has been done for women rights, strong commitment have been made and with the formation of new government it is hoped that these commitments will turn into practice and conditions will change for better. What makes me hopeful about the future of women and girls is there significant presence in various areas especially in education.
More than a decade has passed since the fall of Taliban regime. Has enough opportunities been given to the youths in this period?
In my belief, the youths were a part of the process but they were given only symbolic roles. They were like extras in a movie. They became victims of political games played by senior politicians. Educational opportunities were made available to youths but not employment opportunities. They were given empty promises but not commitments. The youths were never involved in greater political decision-makings and therefore, drug addiction, migration, poverty and other such problems among them increased with the passage of each day.
And what achievements do youths have so far?
I have no doubt that they put efforts for betterment. Democracy in Afghanistan is still nascent. Keeping in view the prevailing condition in the country, the youths have not only taken firm steps ahead but have also made the condition feasible for next steps. The tribal mindset still rules the society but the youths have proved their abilities at both national and international levels decreasing the level influence of patriarchy.
What is your definition of politics and how structured have your political activities been?
I do not like to be highly theoretic but I believe that politics and political work and decision-makings and their implementation are for all society. I do not see politics beyond ethics. Therefore, I always criticize dual politics of Afghan politicians. They did not pay attention to the public power in making a better society. I have always tried for a society that is cooperative.
How much do you prefer to work within the framework of a political party?
So far I have not been a part of any political party and my works have been mostly focused on creating awareness. But if there is political party that works on the same values that I work on I, as a woman, will join it.
How do you see the performance of existing political parties?
I think they waste most of their time in competing with each other instead of doing any fundamental work. The quantity of these parties is high but there is no quality. They pass great mottos that are never given practical shape. These parties pursue their own objectives that are based on the interest of certain individuals not the society.
What relations do you see between political science and sociology?
In simple words the later one is the knowledge of recognition and the second one is the knowledge to using tactics. Studying both of them helped me understand the ground realities of the society and politics. The outcome of these two kinds of knowledge is an optimistic political judgment.
Your birth place is Ghazni. Could you speak about political sociology of this province?
Ghazni is the center of Islamic civilization but still the structure of its society is traditional. No equal development has taken place in the province. Ghazni politicians have tried to keep the condition as is and the required awareness has not been given to the people about their rights. Social, cultural and political development is confined to only a few districts. But what is promising is that youths belonging to Ghazni have significant presence in education institutes.
How do you evaluate women’s interest in political activities in Ghazni?
When it comes to the condition of women in Ghazni, let me tell you that this province is also a part of Afghanistan and it is not much different from other provinces. There are patriarchy and insecurity. The women have no right to choose. Although there are many students and university graduates who belong to Ghazni province but interest in politics is negligible and the reasons are unsound competition, misuse of women’s abilities, lack of trust in their capabilities and tens of other reasons that are rooted tradition and custom and not in the religion of Islam.
What role do peace and security play in political participation of women in Ghazni?
The people see security as the foremost responsibility of government. Like every other area, women’s political participation in Ghazani has also been affected by insecurity. This has resulted in their backwardness and silence over incidents of violence inflicted on women.
What is your point of view about Afghanistan’s present and tomorrow?
Interesting question! Afghanistan’s present is the outcome of 13 years of struggle when opportunities were not properly used but condition for a better Afghanistan is feasible now. Freedom of expression is one of the greatest achievements that can lead to a better future. I wish in the future there is no poverty, no violence against women and no corruption in this country.
What message do you have for other girls and women?
I call upon them to struggle for changing the situation for better. I criticize but I also offer alternatives and never forget justice. I value positive values in this society. I expect women to stand on their own feet and do not let others decide their fate.
And the last question, what do you think of becoming a minister or an MP one day?
I want to give you simple answer. I still believe that I want to be busy in activities that are useful. It does not matter if I am a low-ranking civil servant, a teacher or a minister. What is important to me is effectiveness. Instead of becoming an MP or minister like the current MPs and ministers, I would like to be a low-ranking government employee. What our youths must always focus on is effectiveness, not day-dreaming. If I think I can work effectively in an area, I will take a firm a decision and will prove my efficacy.