One year of Taliban : Woman’s agency still a myth

  One year of Taliban:

Woman’s agency still a myth   

 By Tehmeena Rizvi 

The decommissioning of American forces from Afghanistan left quite a gruesome and horrifying image in all of our minds. We all saw the doomsday-like visuals of afghani’s falling out of american military carriers like sand off a boulder. It was a frightening concept of a fear mongering, highly patriarchal and un-democratic organisation running the show in a country.

Taliban takeover has made catastrophic situations for women on multiple fronts. More than one year after their takeover Afghanistan of today is becoming a hellhole for its women. From changing the system of women’s access to education to limiting their mobility, they have become an embodiment of every woman’s nightmare. In a place like Afghanistan where war and misery have been going on for decades, special attention was required and efforts were required in order to reestablish normalcy and education amongst the women. However, the current situation has only made things worse for them and even a slight hope of improvement has been tarnished by the present regime. The psychological and social wellbeing of the women has gone so low, that it would take several years of intensive care and counselling to return to the daily round. According to a U.N. Women report: “In practice, restrictions on women’s freedom of movement often go beyond what is prescribed in decrees,” due to the intimidation attached to taliban. After the Taliban takeover, women employees working in the government departments were forced to stay at home. Approximately three million girls are currently banned from getting secondary education in Afghanistan, according to UNICEF. 

Just recently, innumerable number of girls have protested in Afghanistan’s Paktia province after Taliban authorities shut their schools just days after classes resumed, and the protest harboured global limelight. At a higher level, The academic week has been split so that male and female students can be taught separately, for three days each.

Academics and education experts opine that  this segregation, and the shortage of female lecturers, has reduced the quality of education, particularly for women. Some subjects have even been discontinued for female students, according to some scholars and students. Human rights campaigners and groups  have accused the Taliban of trying to erase women from all walks of public life. In June, several thousand Taliban clerics and tribal leaders gathered to discuss issues of national importance. But Taliban leaders did not allow women to participate, which drew worldwide outrage.

International bodies like the United Nations are openly spilling the beans on the painful scenario of Afghanistan women under Taliban rule. Recently a renowned UN rights expert said women’s freedoms had significantly deteriorated since the Taliban returned.

“There’s no country in the world where women and girls have so rapidly been deprived of their fundamental human rights purely because of gender,” Richard Bennett, the special rapporteur to UNHRC on the human rights situation in Afghanistan 

Even the women participating in the economic activities in Afghanistan are dwindling after the Taliban takeover. A whopping  77 percent of women’s CSOs have had no projects in 2022 due to a lack of funding, while some heads of organisations and civil society members have left the country. Since the Taliban takeover, foreign donors have drastically cut aid to Afghanistan, where there is a major economic and humanitarian crisis. The gruelling poverty under Taliban rule has made women of Afghanistan its first victim.

Child marriage is not thoroughly tracked in Afghanistan, with gaps in concrete, holistic data about the number of children affected, UNICEF has reported children being sold as young as 20 days old for future marriage, with girls disproportionately affected. Now, amid spiralling poverty and the difficulty of finding sustainable jobs – only five percent of Afghan families have enough to eat daily, and inflation for essential household goods is at 40 percent (PDF) – even more families are struggling. THIS Makes most of girl child vulnerable for Child marriage.

Even before the Taliban seized power, Afghanistan was ranked among the five poorest countries in the world, with almost half the population suffering from chronic food insecurity.

A year after the Taliban took control, aid agencies say nearly all Afghans now live in poverty.

Amid all this, women of Afghanistan are grappling with horrible choices.  A good number of Afghan women are now selling their babies. Poverty in Afghanistan has risen to a point where scores of women line up in front of bakeries in capital Kabul daily to beg for bread and keep their children alive. Women after selling their daughters are forced even to sell kidneys to feed their families. The fact of the matter is that 48 percent of the population in Afghanistan consists of women and thus Taliban need to dawn upon the reality fast  that the country cannot progress without the active participation of its women in building society, especially one which is war torn.

The all important menstrual hygiene has palmetted to a new low in the past one year, with a very small percentage of women having access to basic menstrual hygiene. Afghan girls lack access to menstrual products and education not just at home, but in school as well. Nearly half of women and girls are left in the dark when it comes to menstruation in the first place since education in such areas is virtually non-existent. One hopes Taliban who call themselves the harbinger of so-called morality would look into this aspect ,the hopes of which are bleak .

The whole World needs to brainstorm on how to help the women of Afghanistan recover from trauma & tragedy and get them the basic human rights that they have been deprived of for so many years now. The media, having covered it immensely in the beginning but slowly fading, should get it back into the light of discussions. In its entirety, humanity should empathise with the plight of the Afghan people & especially the women, extending all the aid possible.

Tehmeena Rizvi The author is a Public Policy Professional from J&K, Currently working in New Delhi. Her areas of