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An Update for Women in Afghanistan

Article by Zehra Abrar Global Rights Defenders Blog | Posted September 25, 2023


In 2001, the US and its allies invaded Afghanistan to overthrow the Taliban, who had ruled the country since 1996. In 2020, the US signed the Doha Agreement with the Taliban, aiming to reduce US troop presence and prevent Afghanistan from becoming a terrorist sanctuary. Over negotiations spanning more than a year, US forces began to withdraw. However, in the summer of 2021, the Taliban captured numerous provincial capitals and ultimately seized Kabul on August 15, 2021, causing the collapse of the Afghan government.


  1. The Crash of Afghanistan's Economy- The sanctions, coupled with the sudden termination of vital development aid and suspension of the central bank's credentials, have made Afghanistan financially unstable. It has brought basic banking transactions to a halt, disrupting the cash flow that Afghan families depend on.

  2. Restriction on Media - The Taliban has closed numerous local outlets, banned international broadcasters, and denied visas to foreign journalists. The General Directorate of Intelligence, the Taliban's intelligence agency, has played a central role in this crackdown.

  3. Acute hunger- A staggering 95% of the population doesn't have access to food, a number that has jumped to 100% in households led by women. This rising wave of acute hunger has brought malnutrition, developing into health consequences and chronic illnesses.

  4. Minority Rights Violated- In Afghanistan, the Hazara community, both an ethnic and religious minority, faces ongoing threats marked by attacks on their places of worship and schools, predominantly attended by Hazara students.

  5. Collapse of Healthcare- Since the Taliban assumed power on August 15, 2021, nearly half of the healthcare workers (43.8%) reported that conditions for providing care have worsened since August 2021, and over 40% (41.6%) cannot practice. This healthcare crisis has led to an increase in child and maternal mortality rates.

  6. Rise in poverty- Inflation has driven up the prices of essential goods by more than 50% between July 2021 and June 2022. The scarcity of jobs, coupled with soaring prices of essential goods has led Afghans to rely on loans and credits.


In the past year, reports of escalating human rights violations against women and girls in Afghanistan have cast a shadow over the nation's aspirations for gender equality. Despite early assurances that women's rights would be upheld within the framework of Sharia law, the Taliban's actions have systematically excluded them from public life. The de facto administration has placed harsh restrictions on women and girls, effectively removing them from public life. This has included being banned from education systems; places of employment; representatives within I/NGOs; cabinet positions within the government; public spaces such as amusement parks, gyms and sports clubs; and most recently the closure of beauty parlors and salons.

These efforts to remove women and girls from society have been compounded by strict dress codes, mandatory face coverings, restrictions of movement without male guardianship, and more. The loss of autonomy has impacted their ability to meet basic needs such as access to healthcare, and psychological support, and has increased the risk of poverty. Additionally, abusive punishments such as flogging, amputations, and executions have been reintroduced and are arbitrarily enacted at the Taliban’s discretion.

As a result, women are confined to their homes where they are subject to other human rights abuses such as forced child marriages and increased domestic violence. The Taliban have closed shelters for women survivors of domestic abuses, leaving those who suffer to do so in silence. Under this new regime, women feel scared, isolated, and powerless.


The international community's response to the post-Taliban takeover in Afghanistan has been impaired by insufficient humanitarian aid, challenges in managing the refugee crisis, failure to protect women's rights, economic collapse, security concerns, uneven diplomatic recognition, and a lack of coordinated efforts. Moreover, in the initial months following the Taliban's assumption of power, several nations, including the United States, Canada, and Germany, pledged to assist in relocating vulnerable Afghans. However, the implementation of these promises has been marked by significant delays. As a result, many Afghans find themselves in a state of uncertainty, either stranded in third countries or forced into hiding within Afghanistan in an attempt to evade the Taliban.


In 2023, Afghans constitute the third largest displaced population in the world. As of now, over 8.2 million Afghans are seeking refuge across 103 different countries. More importantly, among the displaced people, 70% are women and children. 80 percent of school-age Afghan girls are currently not in the classroom. Moreover, 28.3 million individuals need assistance—a stark increase from 2022's 24.4 million and 2021's 18.4 million. The gravity of the situation is most evident in the fact that 20 million people are dealing with acute hunger, including a shocking 6 million more heading to famine.


  1. Supporting Media- The international community can provide comprehensive technical and financial support to the media sector, with a particular focus on local media, and those pursuing a hybrid approach. Support operation of major national television and radio stations like Afghan Independent Journalists Union, Tolo, Shamshad, 1TV, Ariana, Killied, and Salam Watandar

  2. Supporting & Advocating- We can help with fundraising initiatives and advocate for Afghan relief efforts. We can promote gender equality and education for Afghan women and girls, and engage in remote volunteering. Also support organizations such as the Women’s Regional Network, Women for Women International, Women for Afghan Women, Canadian Women for Women in Afghanistan, The International Rescue Committee (IRC), Save the Children, and CARE.

  3. Through Home Country Initiatives- For instance, the government of Canada has made it easy for people and organizations to help Afghan refugees in Canada. Check out this website.

In the words of Mahbouba Seraj, a 74-year-old activist and women’s rights defender who lives in Afghanistan, she says:

"The world must look at us as the women of Afghanistan, not as just second-class citizens somewhere. We are the women of a country to which a lot of wrong has been done. For the last 20 years, we have proven to the world who we are. Help us stand up again. The world should not think they are giving us crumbs— stand up behind us, next to us, and see what we can do. We are the hope, we are the power keeping Afghanistan together. Let's do it, but let's do it now with all the soul, the heart and the head it takes. The world should give us the respect that we really deserve. We are stretching our hands out and we ask you to help us."


  1. Anwari, P. (2022 August 12). A year on from the Taliban Takeover, What is the State of the Health System in Afghanistan? London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine

  2. Butt, R (2023 August 15). Taliban Entrenched in Afghanistan After 2 Years in Rule; Women Fear Future. ABC News.

  3. Glass, N., Jalalzai, R., Spiegel, P., & Rubenstein, L (2023). The Crisis of Maternal and Child Health in Afghanistan. Confl Health. Conflict and Health

  4. Human Rights Watch (2023 August 15). The International Community Still Hasn't Fulfilled Its Promises to Afghan Refugees.

  5. Maizland, L (2020). U.S.-Taliban Peace Deal: What to know. Council on Foreign Relations. Council on Foreign Relations

  6. Ochab, E. (2023 August 14). The Legacy of the Taliban: Poverty, Human Rights Violations, and Gender Apartheid. Forbes.

  7. Stefan, P (2023). 2 Years After the Taliban Takeover: Afghanistan’s Population Need Urgent Humanitarian Assistance. European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations

  8. The Centre for Preventive Action (2023) Instability in Afghanistan. Council on Foreign Relations.

  9. The Committee to Protect Journalists (2023 August 13) Taliban must end media crackdown in Afghanistan after two years’rule

  10. UNHCR (2023) Afghanistan Refugee Crisis Explained. .

  11. United Nations. (2022 March 15) Afghanistan: Food Insecurity and Malnutrition Threaten ‘An Entire Generation’.

  12. United Nations. (2023 September 18). Taliban urged to uphold Afghan girls’ right to education, UN News.

  13. United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (2023) Afghanistan Situation.

  14. UN Women. (2022 August 12). In the Words of Mahbouba Seraj: "We are the Hope, We are the Power Keeping Afghanistan Together."

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