Afghan families ‘sell their children’ to avoid starvation
Afghanistan: Female students banned from university
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Afghan families are being forced to sell their children to avoid starvation, with women’s rights having all but disappeared since the return of the Taliban 18 months ago, a frightened female aid worker has the Express. And she also urged the international community to sit up and take notice – and insisted despite their hardships, women would never give up in their fight for equal treatment.
Saara (not her real name) works for Women for Women International worker in Afghanistan, in the wake of the Taliban’s ban on women working for aid organisations.
The Taliban ruled Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001 before the regime was toppled after the US invasion launched by then President George W Bush.
However, following an insurgency campaign which lasted two decades, they returned to power after the US pulled out in August 2021.
Saara explained: “Before, life was normal. I had never worn a burka. After August 2021, life changed for every woman in Afghanistan.”
Banned from attending secondary schools or universities, it was not even permissible for them to go out without being accompanied by a male relative, they were banned from going to the park or gym and from working in most jobs, Saara said.
She continued: “If I go out, I must wear a burka but my headache starts and I feel I’m trapped. But it is painful to feel trapped at home as well.
“With all the restrictions it feels like women are disappearing in Afghanistan. This winter it is cold but it is cold in our hearts too. I don’t feel safe.”
Afghan people were facing an economic crisis, the price of goods had increased, and there was a lot of unemployment, Saara said.
She added: “Hunger is one of the biggest problems. Every day people starve, some are selling their children to survive. Now the de facto government decreed that women must cover their faces in public and instructed them to remain in their homes except in cases of necessity.
“When I learned that they banned female aid workers I felt heartbroken and could not speak about it.’
Saara said she was especially disheartened by attempts to ban women from aid worker jobs – a move she said was having a direct impact on many people.
Referring to the constant conflict which has scarred Afghanistan for years, Saara said: “The war killed many husbands, brothers and fathers and so now many female colleagues are also the breadwinners of their households. If we cannot work, what will we do? There is so much need in Afghanistan this winter.
“Sometimes I feel helpless but we will not give up. My male colleagues were able to get permission for us to return to our training centres in some places and to give cash assistance to women. We were so happy to be together again even for a small time.”
Saara said she had been given hope by the fact that in some locations we have resumed our program with female staff being able to work.
However, with the ban still in effect it meant humanitarian aid would not reach the most vulnerable, dealing a further blow to women throughout the country.
Saara concluded: “I want the international community to listen to Afghan women, to lift up their voices and be led by them.
“We have so much to give our country and our economy and we want the chance to contribute to the future of Afghanistan. We will not give up and we ask that the world does not give up on us either.”
Women for Women International helps women survivors of war rebuild their lives and has been in Afghanistan for 20 years, serving more than 127,000 women. It operates in 16 training centres in four provinces – Kabul, Nangarhar, Kunar and Parwan – with more than 2,546 women currently enrolled in its year-long programme.
It has encountered a varied response to the ban from local officials, depending on the region.
In some locations where in-person training is still paused, female staff continue to work from home, finding ways to serve women, either through virtual training or other ways of working remotely.
- For more information visit womenforwomen.org.uk
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