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  • Writer's pictureBait Al-Amanah

Afghan Women and Girls Deserves Better

Updated: Feb 7, 2023

By Simraatraj Kaur Dhillon

The Taliban government’s decision to exclude young women and girls from schools and institutions of higher education is shameful and disappointing. Women and girls in Afghanistan have been denied basic human rights, such as the right to access formal education, the privilege to work and the right to determine their future. Since the ban was imposed by the Taliban government, almost 850,000 to 1.1 million girls are not attending classes.

According to the United Nations, almost 80 per cent of Afghanistan’s economy is informal and dominated by women. By not educating young women and girls, there is little to no chance of Afghanistan’s economy and society to recover.

However, Afghan women have not only been banned from learning institutions but also from working with non-governmental organisations. The Islamist rulers justified this ban by saying that female NGO workers had broken dress codes by not wearing hijabs. This ongoing exclusion of women and girls from learning institutions accessing work, and freedom has no credible justification and has no parallel anywhere in the world.

Female NGO workers act as the main breadwinners in their household. By being banned from work, women are unable to support and provide for their families. If NGOs are only allowed to employ men, this could mean that Afghan women are unable to receive aid directly, consequently exposing them to financial dependence and inability to support other women and girls.

These discriminatory policies not only affect Afghanistan women and girls but Muslim women globally. When one Muslim woman's right is challenged, it calls into question the freedom and rights of other Muslim women worldwide.

The world is failing Afghanistan women and girls. Beyond making statements, the international community hasn't taken any action to enforce those obligations or make the Taliban responsible for their misdeeds and unfulfilled promises. Instead, UN organisations have forbidden female employees from attending meetings with Taliban “ministers.”

The international community needs a plan and strong leadership, both of which are currently lacking. World leaders must refuse to participate in any form of engagement that privileges Taliban over the rest of Afghan society. Donors and foreign partners should make sure that Afghan women and other threatened groups are not only included but also treated with the respect and equality that reflect their constructive contributions wherever the Taliban are invited to negotiations.

The international community must stay engaged with the matter and should not give the Taliban even a moment to relax; sustained pressure from the international community will unavoidably guarantee women's access to school, work and freedom.

Reversing the immense harm caused by decades of unsuccessful policies that encouraged awful outcomes in Afghanistan and around the world will take time and effort. But a good place to start is to transition to a policy approach that both empowers and celebrates the nation's builders — especially women — and is supported by effective deterrence for wrongdoers.

*This article was published in Malay Mail on 25 December 2022.

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