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  • Writer's pictureOvith Thiyagalingam

Afghanistan: The Invisible Woman

Updated: Aug 7, 2022

This article discusses themes of gender-based violence and suicide and may be triggering for some readers.

"Every day there is at least one or two women who commit suicide for the lack of opportunity, for the mental health, for the pressure they receive.”

- Fawzia Koofi, Former Deputy Speaker of the Afghan Parliament

Women in Afghanistan

The Taliban, an Islamic fundamentalist group that ruled Afghanistan for twenty years from 1996 until the U.S. led invasion in 2001, returned to power in Afghanistan in August 2021. Richard Bennett, the UN-appointed special rapporteur on the situation in Afghanistan, reports that the degradation of women’s rights is core to the Taliban’s governing ideology, proven by the clear regression in women’s and girls’ rights in Afghanistan during Taliban-controlled Afghanistan in the 1990s. During the group’s last rule, harsh restrictions were imposed on Afghan women, including directives on women’s and girl’s clothing and prohibitions preventing most girls from going to school.

Despite renewed assurances from the Taliban that women’s and girls’ human rights would be protected, whether in relation to work, education, or society at large, discrimination against women continues to be reinstated through regressive laws and the institutionalized systemic oppression of women and girls.

Information received by the UN on violations faced by women and girls in Afghanistan include forced, early, and child marriage, extreme restrictions on women’s clothing and movement outside their homes, exclusion from education and public life, and barriers to employment.

Women-owned and run businesses have been completely shut down. A nearly 30% female representation in parliament before the Taliban’s takeover has been reduced to 0% post the Taliban’s seizure of control. From 4 million girls in school, only 1.5 million girls remain. Growing domestic violence and harassment, attacks on women human rights defenders and lawyers, massive unemployment of women, and extreme restrictions on dress and movement in public are all just part of the new reality for Afghanistan women. Reportedly, every day there are at least 1-2 women in Afghanistan who commit suicide, and girls as young as nine-years old are being sold because of the lack of hope for them and their family in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan.

Women in Afghanistan should not be made to be invisible or almost entirely excluded from society, but must rather be empowered to fully and freely participate in every sphere of civil, political, economic, and public life. Girls should have the freedom to go to school, to shape their own dreams and futures, and to contribute to the future of their country. Beyond just being their right, women’s contribution to economic activity is invaluable, and requires women to have access to education and freedom of movement and from violence.

Women’s advocacy organizations, such as Women for Women International, are funding initiatives supporting women in Afghanistan and are sharing word about how people can help. The duty to protect international human rights and women’s rights, however, belongs to more than just governments and established non-profits. As citizens in the global community, students in Canada can also take action to help.

Students for Women and Girls in Afghanistan

So what can you do?

  1. Be an advocate for refugees and refugee rights in your community and at your school.

  2. Write to your local government representative about your concerns for the rights of women and girls in Afghanistan.

  3. Donate to organizations that are supporting women and girls during this crisis.

    1. Women for Women International

    2. Canadian Women for Women in Afghanistan

    3. Afghan Women’s Organization Refugee and Immigrant Services

    4. The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF)

    5. International Media Support

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