Women: the third-rate citizens of Afghanistan!

Empty promises followed non supportive actions by Taliban upon taking up governance in Afghanistan regarding women. They offered education, work in public spheres. This did not translate in action nor do we see women presence in ministries and public offices. Their faces must be covered in public, and must be accompanied by a male. They cannot step out unescorted. In 2021, women could only work in areas when men could not work. The areas are of course limited. Closed in. Secondary education is banned for girls ie Grade 7-12. Go fly a kite! 1.1 million girls have been affected by this restriction alone.

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“Decades of progress on gender equality and women’s rights have been wiped out in mere months. We must continue to act together, united in our insistence on guarantees of respect for the full spectrum of women’s rights.” [UN Women Executive Director Sima Bahous]

The question is how? How can women rights be guaranteed under Taliban in Afghan government? With hardly, if any interaction with world community, the influence on the present government remains minimal.  And this is not just about the Taliban in Afghanistan. Many other than them are embracing the legitimacy of restrictions on women.

This can only be suffocating and beyond bearing. A whole new generation has been born and raised after 1990 who have never seen Taliban rule. They do not know a life where life’s choices do not exist. How can one maintain a sustained push to end a curtailment on women freedom, projecting it rightly as a right in totality and not a right that is restricted by Afghan culture?

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Protection of female rights has to be a key to the process of building up of Afghan society. No society can progress without including the women. Exclusion is not an option. The Taliban must understand, only and unless they take the path towards inclusion, they will be viewed as people who are not up to the needs of the time. They will become more and more a pariah for the international community. This in turn will mean they will not be favored as a nation to deal with in terms of trade and on the economic front. The mindset has to change.

Can international doners help women progress? Yes! They can. But what guarantee will they have that funds are utilized for the purpose sent? Should it be directly to an existing organization or can a deal be negotiated with Taliban to set up a branch office by an internationally recognized organization, to set up schools, offer them classes to develop expertise in areas like cooking, dress making, so on, to those who are interested here. Educated women can offer online teaching classes to a world now open through internet. Of course, education is a right for every child, male or female. This should be the first step of the donor organizations.

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The writer is a lawyer, academic and political analyst. She has authored a book titled ‘A Comparative Analysis of Media & Media Laws in Pakistan.’ She can be contacted at: yasmeenali62@gmail.com and tweets at @yasmeen_9

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