What Afghan women want: A say over their own rights and futures

What Afghan women want: A say over their own rights and futures

Written by NADJA editors

Photo by Arnesen / CC BY-SA 2.0 DEED

Since the Taliban regained control of Afghanistan in August 2021, more than 50 bans and restrictions have been put in place that limit and regulate the rights of Afghan women and girls. 

However prior to this, women were excluded from almost 80% of peace negotiations.  

The discussions that led to the Doha agreement in 2020, a peace agreement signed by the US and the Taliban which was intended to bring an end to the 2001–2021 war in Afghanistan, did not contain a single reference to women’s rights. 

This failure to safeguard the basic human rights of women and girls is partly to blame for the gender apartheid they are living under today. A recent UN report, which is based on the views of Afghan women gathered during quarterly consultations since August 2022, highlights that their experiences and needs must be at the centre of any future decision-making. 

Compiled jointly by UN Women, the International Organization for Migration (IOM), and the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), the consultation asked about the direct impact the Taliban’s restrictions are having on women’s lives, finding that: 

  • 81% of Afghan women had to skip a meal in the last two weeks
  • 57% feel unsafe leaving their house without an escort
  • 82% consider their mental health to be bad

The Taliban’s regime is expected to have a lasting impact for decades to come. The women who contributed to this report, said that “boys are internalising the subordination of their mothers and sisters, reinforcing a belief that they should remain in the home in positions of servitude.” 

Afghan women’s resistance 

Despite these immense challenges many women are protesting the regime, by taking to the streets, establishing secret schools in their homes, and using creative forms of protest like singing and performance. 

Earlier this year Zahra Nader, the editor-in-chief of Zan Times, told us that, “In January 2022, the Taliban started arresting protesters, and started torturing them, creating an environment of fear and horror. It forced some women to stay indoors. But being indoors doesn’t mean being silenced: I have witnessed how women speak out from inside their homes, how they are resisting, how they’re fighting, how they are imprisoned for just asking for their rights.”

She added that the international community must take action, because “what’s happening in Afghanistan could happen in any other country.” 

The women consulted in the study asked for the international community to consistently ensure their representation at the global level and in public decision-making, with 42% saying they want the international community to “facilitate for women to talk directly with the Taliban.” 

Other key demands include ensuring the leadership and participation of Afghan women and girls in delivering aid, and for an increase in funding to initiatives that invest in women’s skills and raise awareness of their rights. 

They were also asked whether they believed the Taliban should be internationally recognised as a government, to which 60% said this should happen only if all restrictions on the rights of women and girls are reversed. To formally recognise them before any tangible progress on women’s rights is made, “would be the worst-case scenario for their lives and the future of the country.”


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