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28. February 2023 - News

Women’s rights in Afghanistan: Difficult, but not impossible

Life for women and girls in Afghanistan has deteriorated dramatically since the Taliban took power. Gradually they are being excluded from all areas of public life. Together with our local partner organisations we are demonstrating how women’s rights work can succeed even under these conditions.

Two women sitting on cushions, only their hands and knees are visible
Women in Afghanistan are being excluded from public life.

Since August 2021, the Taliban have been steadily increasing restrictions on the life of women and girls. For example, women are now only allowed to go out of their house wearing a full veil and accompanied by a male relative. Girls’ schools are closed from the 7th grade and since the end of 2022 women have no longer been permitted to study at university.

On 24 December 2022 there was another major setback: a Taliban decree now forbids women from working in local or international NGOs. This ban affects tens of thousands of Afghan women who were employed as instructors, advisors or mediators.

Women’s rights work has become even more difficult because of this, but we clearly have to continue our commitment to Afghanistan. For our partners, this assurance itself is extremely important, since many activists currently feel they have been abandoned by the international community. They are very worried that international funders and organisations will withdraw from the country completely.

”Each project and each measure we can implement is a success.“

Lailoma Vida Faizi, Project Officer for Afghanistan at medica mondiale.

Our partner organisations are looking for ways to continue offering support to women and girls. They are committed to ensuring nobody is denied the right to work and are examining the decree to find ways of interpreting the ban: there could be opportunities to continue certain activities, to work from home, and to continue some form of networking.

Our projects in Afghanistan

In order not to endanger the safety of our partner organisations we are not mentioning their names in connection with any specific projects. An overview of their work:

  1. Psychosocial counselling for women affected by violence
    In several provinces, psychosocial counselling for women is being offered. This now generally takes place via online services and there is a telephone hotline for women affected by violence. Currently, one organisation is planning to establish counselling centres, in order to reach more women. The women are usually put in contact with the counsellors by lawyers, doctors, teachers and personal contacts.

    Several organisations continue to offer financial support for women affected by violence who are building up their own little shops or businesses. In one province an organisation is also running public awareness sessions on the topics of early marriage, violence against women, and the value of female education. It is working together with religious authorities on this.

    One organisation is campaigning at national and international level to raise awareness of the situation of women in Afghanistan.

  2. Training for lawyers
    A partner organisation is turning to online formats in order to continue advising and training former lawyers. The staff offer training for former law students on issues relating to human and women’s rights – topics which can no longer be taught officially but are still very important in the current situation. This carefully curated knowledge on women’s and human rights should not be allowed to disappear!

    This year medica mondiale is planning to offer sessions on self-care and stress management for up to 50 of these students.

  3. Emergency help and psychosocial support for vulnerable human rights defenders
    An organisation is offering protection, advice and support to people being threatened because of their work to defend human and women’s rights. For reasons of security we cannot provide any further details of this project.

  4. Support for women and girls under the Taliban
    One organisation is organising activities to educate and empower women and girls, tailoring courses for girls, and advice sessions for female workers who have to switch to online work. Furthermore, medica mondiale is supporting the organisation itself as it works out how to restructure its activities.

  5. Enhancing networks in Afghanistan
    medica mondiale is currently adapting its offers of support to better assist women’s rights activists who had to flee Afghanistan and those who are still in the country. They can take part in workshops and advice sessions and network among themselves. Some of these workshops are being led by former Afghan colleagues. This networking among courageous women’s rights defenders within and outside Afghanistan is extremely important during times of insecurity and threats.

    Furthermore, the team at medica mondiale is assisting the political work of the partner organisations by passing on their perspectives and opinions at meetings of various working groups, within German civil society and with the German government. Where possible, medica mondiale tries to ensure direct participation of Afghan colleagues in relevant conferences and meetings.

Important for Afghan activists: Not losing hope

medica mondiale continues its active solidarity with the women and girls in Afghanistan. Even if the Taliban is excluding women from all areas of public life: it cannot kill the courage and spirit of self-determination of Afghan women and girls.

”Do not stop supporting women’s organisations in Afghanistan. They now need safety, space and networks in order to develop new strategies!“

Humaira Rasuli, human rights lawyer and women’s rights activist

It is important not to give up hope now. We need to keep looking out for all of the people offering up resistance every day as they increase, even just a little, the space and opportunities for women’s rights.

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