Zahra Nader, who covers Afghanistan for the NY Times, says last week’s celebration of International Women’s Day didn’t mean much in a country where it’s so hard to be a woman:

It isn’t easy being a woman journalist in Afghanistan; it isn’t easy being a woman here, for that matter. But for many Afghan women, that is not what comes across in all these celebrations.

It often appears that many institutions use Women’s Day to show a liberal face, but just for a day.

“On every International Women’s Day, I keep thinking more of how suppressed we are within this patriarchal society,” said Sahar Fetrat, a filmmaker and women’s activist. “The symbolic celebrations, flowers, gifts and some words of empathy and sympathy are always given to women every 8th of March while on the same day, sexism, inequality, harassment and violence against women screams from all the streets and corners of this country.”

Women’s activists say that donors find it easy to give money for celebrations, which no one criticizes, while it’s much harder to support programs that produce real — and therefore controversial — change.

“We do not want to get flowers and head scarves,” said Zubaida Akbar, an advocate for women’s rights. “Instead, respect us as humans.”

Read Nader’s full piece here.