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Forced out of school, but refusing to give up on education in Afghanistan

year after the Taliban takeover, 17-year-old Mursal Fasihi is still in disbelief that she cannot go back to school. Once a dedicated student, Ms. Fasihi – like all girls of secondary school age – has been unable to return to the classroom due to rules imposed by the country’s de facto leadership.

“It is not right that they are deciding for us, ordering us to go with mahram [a male companion], that we should hide our faces, and stop going to school,” she says, referring to the series of directives that have effectively restricted women and girls from participating in public life.

The last time Ms. Fasihi saw the inside of a school was when she took her final examination for 11th grade in July 2021. A month later, the Taliban swept across Afghanistan, which ended with the fall of Kabul on 15 August.

‘I miss my friends, my teachers and my school’

Some of her friends were able to leave Afghanistan and are now continuing their education overseas. “I really miss my friends, my teachers, and my school. My school was a great place but now I can’t go there,” she says.

Her dreams of becoming a doctor are now uncertain. But her hope will not be extinguished. To fill her time and still feel productive, Ms. Fasihi joined the Youth Peer Educators Network (Y-PEER), a regional initiative led by and for youth, supported by the UN reproductive health agency, UNFPA.

Y-PEER focuses on building young people’s life skills to deal with the challenges that they face. Ms. Fasihi joined a training session last July and is now one of the 25 trainers for Y-PEER in Afghanistan.

The training opened her eyes to various issues young Afghans face on a daily basis. As an educated young woman in the city of Kabul, she had not realized how many girls, especially young girls living in poverty or in remote areas, suffer from negative experiences such as early marriage and adolescent pregnancy.

An unprecedented increase in poverty

The unprecedented increase in poverty, resulting from the economic crisis that came with the Taliban’s return to power in Afghanistan, has brought to the fore discussions about these concerns. Out of desperation, many families have resorted to marrying off their young daughters, offloading responsibility for their care and protection.

“It is sad because how can a child bring another child into this world and raise them?” Ms. Fasihi points out. “At our age, we are just children. We should be studying, aiming for great things. It’s not time for us to get married yet.”

Waiting for the dark cloud to pass

Although Ms. Fasihi’s desire for a formal education is on hold indefinitely, she finds meaning and purpose in being a peer educator for others.

In addition to teaching youth about the harms of early marriage and adolescent pregnancy, she is able to share her hope for a better future.

“When the dark cloud passes, we will see a bright morning,” she told UNFPA.

“I hope that young girls will not give up. It is ok to be scared, it is ok to cry, but giving up is not an option. I hope they will continue learning in any way they can. Inshallah, maybe someone will help us, or the schools will reopen,” she said. “Our bright morning will come.”

Ukraine war-induced crisis affecting women and girls disproportionately: UN report

The policy paper developed by gender agency UN Women and the Secretary-General’s Global Crisis Response Group, describes how the war has widened gender gaps in hunger, education and poverty, and has also increased gender-based violence.

Dire situation

For example, school-aged girls are now at a higher risk of being forced out of school and into marriage, as a way for desperate families simply to make ends meet.

Women have also reduced their own food intake, so that other family members can have more, amid food price hikes and shortages.

Meanwhile, energy prices have left families with no choice but to continue using low-tech fossil fuels, exposing women and girls to household air pollution, which kills 3.2 million people each year.

UN Women also estimates that around 265,000 Ukrainian women were pregnant when the war broke out and have had to endure physical and health challenges in the past months.

Nataliia was four months pregnant when the war in Ukraine started.

UNFPA Ukraine
Nataliia was four months pregnant when the war in Ukraine started.

Rural food insecurity

The document notes that women-headed households in Ukraine were already more food insecure before the war, with 37.5 per cent of them experiencing moderate or severe levels of food insecurity, compared to 20.5 per cent of male-headed households.

Currently, rural women in Russian occupied territories are not able to do agricultural work due to high insecurity and lack of resources. However, they are having to accommodate internally displaced people, multiplying their unpaid care and domestic work responsibilities.

An injured girl rests in a medical ward in Kyiv, Ukraine, after her car was shelled.

© WHO/Anastasia Vlasova
An injured girl rests in a medical ward in Kyiv, Ukraine, after her car was shelled.

Sexual violence on the rise

The report warns of an “alarming” increase in gender-based violence, transactional sex for food and survival, sexual exploitation, and trafficking, not only in Ukraine but worldwide, amid worsening living conditions.

“Systemic, gendered crises require systemic, gendered solutions.  That means ensuring that women and girls, including from marginalized groups, are part of all the decision-making processes.

“That is simply the only way to be certain that their rights and needs are fully taken into account as we respond to the clear facts before us”, said Sima Bahous, UN Women Executive Director.

Ukrainian women, fleeing escalating conflict, wait for a lift to reach a refugee centre in Poland.

© Daniele Aguzzoli
Ukrainian women, fleeing escalating conflict, wait for a lift to reach a refugee centre in Poland.

Recommendations

The analysis highlights that as women continue to bear different and additional burdens of war, they must be represented in all decision-making platforms on de-escalation, conflict prevention, mitigation and other processes in pursuit of peace and security for the people of Ukraine and beyond.

The report calls on the international community to promote the right to food by targeting the specific nutrition needs of women and girls and accelerating the transformation towards more equitable gender-responsive and sustainable food systems.

UN Women and the UN’s Global Crisis Response Group also recommend world leaders to ensure equal access to affordable and sustainable energy, as well as boost reporting on gender statistics and sex-disaggregated data.

New platform highlights women’s leadership in tackling global challenges

The newly established UNGA Platform of Women Leaders held an event where they discussed global issues under the theme of Transformative Solutions by Women Leaders to Today’s Interlinked Challenges

In attendance were President Katalin Novák of Hungary, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina of Bangladesh, Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir of Iceland, Prime Minister Fiamē Naomi Mataʻafa of Samoa, Prime Minister Robinah Nabbanja of Uganda, Prime Minister Evelyn Wever-Croes of Aruba, and Prime Minister Silveria E. Jacobs of St. Maarten, as well as former Prime Minister Helen Clark of New Zealand. 

Making a ‘positive difference’ 

Recent global crises, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, the climate emergency and conflicts, have shown the positive difference women’s leadership and decision-making can make in executive positions, parliaments, and public administration.  

For example, data from the UN Development Programme (UNDP) and UN Women, shows that governments with higher women’s representation in parliaments adopted a higher number of gender-sensitive policy measures in response to the pandemic, including policies aimed directly at strengthening women’s economic security. 

Tuesday’s event was hosted by the Office of the President of the UN General Assembly and UN Women, in cooperation with the Council of Women World Leaders (CWWL). 

Transformative leadership 

In his remarks to the gathering, General Assembly President Csaba Kőrösi made the case for having more women in government. 

“Women’s leadership is transformative. The women leaders with us today are living proof of this fact,” he said. 

“Inclusive governance can result in policies that create positive change over the long term. By integrating the views of diverse women – especially at the highest levels – governments can effectively tailor and target solutions to those most in need.” 

Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed (left) was accompanied by President Sahle-Work Zewde of Ethiopia on her visit to drought-stricken communities in the Somali Regional State.

UNECA/Daniel Getachaw
Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed (left) was accompanied by President Sahle-Work Zewde of Ethiopia on her visit to drought-stricken communities in the Somali Regional State.

Long road ahead 

Out of the 193 countries that are UN Member States, only 28 women serve as elected Heads of State or Government.  

There also is still a long way to go when it comes to the proportion of women in other levels of political office.   

Globally, women comprise 21 per cent of the world’s ministers, 26 per cent of national parliamentarians, and 34 per cent of elected local government seats.   

A new UN report has further revealed that at the current pace of progress, equal parliamentary representation will not be achieved until 2062

Sima Bahous, Executive Director of UN Women, sees a strong role for the newly created leadership platform. 

“When more women lead in political and public life, everyone benefits, especially in crises,” she said.

“A new generation of girls see a possible future for themselves. Health, education, childcare, and violence against women, receive greater attention and better solutions. We must find every possible way to amplify the assets women leaders bring. This Platform is an opportunity to do just that.” 

‘We must act now’ 

The UNGA Global Platform of Women Leaders has its genesis in a September 2021 meeting between women Heads of State and Government and Abdulla Shahid, who was President of the General Assembly at the time. 

Mr. Shahid underscored the importance of Tuesday’s event, given the statistics.  

“At our current rate of progress, it could take 300 years to achieve gender equality,” he said. “We must act now. Accelerate investment in girls and women. Scale up efforts to empower women. Expand opportunities for girls. Eliminate gender-based violence.”  

More women, more diversity 

The UNGA Platform of Women leaders will also help bring visibility to women in prominent political leadership positions, according to the event’s organizers. 

The critical role of women’s leadership in driving sustainable development is well documented, they added.  

Countries with greater numbers of women political leaders tend to give greater attention to issues such as health, education, infrastructure, and ending violence against women.  

In response to the pandemic, women leaders championed policies that addressed its social and economic impacts on the most vulnerable groups.  

Representation matters 

Data also shows that in conflict-affected contexts, women’s representation in public life brings heightened credibility to peace processes and negotiations, helping unify divided communities.  

Furthermore, research has also shown that seeing more women in power increases girls’ educational and career aspirations. 

“It is my strong belief that the world needs more women leaders and more diverse leaders, people with all kinds of backgrounds and life experiences,” said Ms. Jakobsdóttir, Prime Minister of Iceland and the CWWL Chair. 

“The decisions leaders make affect all people in our societies. These decisions should be made by people who have a real and deep understanding of how most people live, of what their concerns are, and are therefore responsive to their needs.” 

Alarm over Iranian woman’s death after ‘improper’ hijab arrest

Mahsa Amini was arrested a week ago by Iran’s “morality police” in Teheran. The 22-year-old, whose Kurdish name is Jhina – fell into a coma shortly after collapsing at a detention centre, and died three days later, officially of a heart attack.

In Geneva, Spokesperson for the UN rights office OHCHR, Ravina Shamdasani, said that there was also deep concern at the violent response of Iran’s security forces to protests sparked by Ms. Amini’s death.

Thousands protest

She noted that thousands have taken to the streets in a number of cities across the country, including in Tehran, Isfahan, Karaj, Mashhad, Rasht, Saqqes and Sanandaj, in protests against Ms. Amini’s death.

“Security forces have reportedly responded with live ammunition, pellet guns and teargas”, she told journalists. “At least two people have reportedly been killed and several injured, and a number have been arrested.”

Ms. Shamdasani also highlighted that legislation had been passed in Iran allowing police to send text messages to women in their cars, telling them to not to take off their hijabs while driving.

Hijab ‘rules should not exist’

“The bottom line is that these rules should not exist, women should not be punished for what they are wearing”, she said.

“Women who defy these compulsory veiling rules should not be harassed, should not be subjected to violence and there needs to be a fair investigation.”

Prompt, impartial investigation needed

Ms. Nashif said the 22 year-old’s “tragic death and allegations of torture and ill-treatment, must be promptly, impartially and effectively investigated by an independent competent authority, that ensures, in particular, that her family has access to justice and truth”.

The acting rights chief also condemned the reported unnecessary or disproportionate use of force against those protesting the Kurdish woman’s death, inside Vozara Detention Centre, and called on Iran – a State party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights – to respect the right to peacefully exercise freedom of expression, assembly and association.

Ms. Al-Nashif also echoed previous concerns voiced by UN Secretary-General António Guterres over the ongoing repression of women human rights defenders, who object to compulsory veiling.

Afghanistan: UN repeats call for Taliban to allow girls full access to school

In a strong personal appeal, the UN Secretary-General tweeted on Sunday that the past 12 months represented “a year of lost knowledge and opportunity that they will never get back”.

Echoing Mr. Guterrres’s call, the UN Mission there repeated its demand for the ban to be overturned immediately.

Markus Potzel, acting head of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), described the anniversary on Sunday as “a tragic, shameful, and entirely avoidable” development.

The ongoing exclusion of girls from secondary school classes “has no credible justification and has no parallel anywhere in the world,” Mr. Potzel said.

A lost generation

He added that the decision – taken soon after Taliban fighters rapidly overran Kabul last August – had been “profoundly damaging to a generation of girls and to the future of Afghanistan”.

When Afghanistan’s high schools reopened to boys on 18 September last year, the newly installed Taliban rulers issued an order for girls aged 12 to 18, to remain at home, impacting grades seven to 12.

It’s estimated that more than one million girls have been barred from attending high school lessons over the past year, despite international condemnation and promises from the authorities that the situation would be remedied.

Window of opportunity narrowing

“The UN yet again calls upon the Taliban to reverse the slew of measures they have introduced restricting Afghan women and girls’ enjoyment of their basic rights and freedoms,” said Mr. Potzel, who is also the UN Secretary-General’s Deputy Special Representative for Afghanistan.

The window of opportunity may be narrowing, but we urge them to take concrete steps – such as actively enabling girls to return to high school – that can lift Afghanistan up and give hope to its people.”

The Afghan expert and veteran diplomat – who recently served as Ambassador of Germany to Afghanistan – insisted that the onus was on the Taliban “to create favourable conditions for peace, inclusion, security, human rights and economic recovery”.

And he added that the international community “remains ready” to support a government represented “all its people and respects their rights”.

New UN guide helps support perinatal mental healthcare in 'stigma-free' environment

Life-altering moments like pregnancy, birth, and early parenthood can be stressful for women and their partners, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

It can trigger a period of poor mental health or lead to a worsening of previous mental health conditions.

Moreover, among women with perinatal mental health conditions – just before and shortly after giving birth – around 20 per cent will experience suicidal thoughts or undertake acts of self-harm, said WHO.

Guiding with cultural sensitivity

Ignoring mental fitness not only risks women’s overall health and well-being, but also impacts infants’ physical and emotional development.

The UN health agency’s new guide for integration of perinatal mental health in maternal and child health services upholds that good mental health can improve health outcomes  and the quality of maternal and child health services for all women.

And it compliments other services, including screening, diagnosis and management of PMH conditions into maternal and child health (MCH) – highlighted in the Nurturing Care Framework; WHO recommendations on maternal and newborn care for a positive postnatal experience; and the WHO guideline on improving Early Childhood Development.

The guide provides the best available information aimed at supporting MCH providers in identifying symptoms of mental health problems and responding in a way that is adapted to their local and cultural context.

Planning guide

“The guide provides an evidence-informed approach for planning the integration of perinatal mental healthcare into MCH services and assessing its impact,” said the UN health agency.

WHO outlined that effective integration requires, for example, a core team responsible to oversee it, a situation analysis and needs assessment to identify a feasible package of interventions that meet women’s needs during the perinatal period, and adequate workforce training and supervision to deliver services.

“MCH services during the perinatal period represent a unique opportunity to support women in a respectful and stigma-free environment,” said the UN health agency.

This, in turn, leads to increased attendance and better engagement in care for women and their babies and greater well-being and advancement of society.

Without investment, gender equality will take nearly 300 years: UN report

The study reveals how gender disparities are worsening in the face of “cascading” global crises – such as the COVID-19 pandemic, violent conflict, and climate change – coupled with the backlash against women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights.

As a result, countries will not meet SDG5 by the 2030 deadline.

‘Reverse this trend’

“This is a tipping point for women’s rights and gender equality as we approach the half-way mark to 2030,” said Sima Bahous, Executive Director at UN Women.

“It is critical that we rally now to invest in women and girls to reclaim and accelerate progress. The data show undeniable regressions in their lives made worse by the global crises – in incomes, safety, education and health. The longer we take to reverse this trend, the more it will cost us all.”

The Gender Snapshot 2022 report showcases how cooperation, partnerships and investments are essential to put the world back on track.

Without swift action, legal systems that do not ban violence against women, or protect their rights in marriage and family, may continue to exist for generations to come.

The report warns that at the current rate of progress, it will take up to 286 years to close gaps in legal protection and remove discriminatory laws.

Most vulnerable affected

Furthermore, it will take 140 years for women to achieve equal representation in leadership positions in the workplace, and 40 years for the same to happen in national parliaments.

Meanwhile, to eradicate child marriage by 2030, progress will have to be 17 times faster than in the last decade, with girls from the poorest rural households and in conflict-affected areas  expected to suffer the most.

“Cascading global crises are putting the achievement of the SDGs in jeopardy, with the world’s most vulnerable population groups disproportionately impacted, in particular women and girls.  Gender equality is a foundation for achieving all SDGs and it should be at the heart of building back better,” said Maria-Francesca Spatolisano, an Assistant Secretary-General at UN DESA.

Extreme poverty rising

The report also highlights a worrisome reversal on poverty reduction, with rising prices set to exacerbate the situation.

By the end of the year, roughly 383 million women and girls will live in extreme poverty, compared to 368 million men and boys. Many more will have insufficient income to meet basic needs such as food, clothing, and adequate shelter in most parts of the world.

If current trends continue, more women and girls in sub-Saharan Africa will live in extreme poverty by 2030 than today, according to the report.

The invasion of Ukraine in February, and the ongoing war there, are further worsening food insecurity and hunger, especially among women and children. The war has led to limited supplies of wheat, fertilizer and fuel, while propelling inflation.

Many street food vendors lost their only source of income when COVID-19 lockdowns shuttered towns and cities in Thailand.

UN Women/Ploy Phutpheng
Many street food vendors lost their only source of income when COVID-19 lockdowns shuttered towns and cities in Thailand.

The power of education

Other daunting facts from the report reveal that globally, women lost roughly $800 billion in income due to the pandemic.  Despite a rebound, women’s participation in the job market is projected to decrease this year to 50.8 per cent, compared to 51.8 per cent in 2021.

The report has been released ahead of the Transforming Education Summit, which will be convened on the margins of the UN General Assembly later this month.

Although not enough by itself, achieving universal girls’ education would help to boost gender equality.

Each additional year of schooling can increase a girl’s future earnings by up to 20 per cent, according to the report, with further impacts on poverty reduction, better maternal health, lower child mortality, greater HIV prevention and reduced violence against women.

Sierra Leone: Female genital mutilation ‘amounts to torture,’ impunity must end

Following criminal proceedings over the death of a 21-year-old student who was subject to the brutal practice in the Bonthe District, three Special Rapporteurs issued a statement condemning female genital mutilation as “a grave form of violence against women and girls that amounts to torture”.

“It violates the fundamental rights of its victims, including their physical integrity and rights not to be subject to torture or other cruel treatment and to life, sexual and reproductive health,” they said.

Deep-rooted practice

Discriminatory customs are entrenched in social norms and configurations of power, inevitably tied to one’s status and place in communities, the experts said.

“Much like other harmful practices of similar nature, female genital mutilation reflects and perpetuates a broader trend of gender inequality”.

The three stressed that female genital mutilation can neither be normalized nor used as a justification to invoke sociocultural and religious customs to the detriment of the wellbeing of women and girls.

“They must be construed in line with the broader trend of gender-based violence, which simply cannot continue with impunity,” spelled out the Special Rapporteurs.

Judicial justice needed

According to reports, the criminal proceedings against one of the perpetrators charged with female genital mutilation that led to the victim’s death have been impeded by the systemic failure to protect women and girls.

“The lack of a dedicated and enforceable legislation that expressly criminalizes and punishes female genital mutilation is hindering judicial or other investigation into and persecution of these harmful practices and unlawful killings,” the experts said.

Laws and policies need to provide clear accountability frameworks and disciplinary sanctions with respect to female genital mutilation,” they said.

Supporting women

The UN experts urged the Sierra Leone Government to establish a comprehensive set of legal prohibitions, including through strengthening the memoranda of understanding with local practitioners and amending the Child Rights Act to explicitly prohibit the performance of female genital mutilation to girls under the age of 18.

In the meantime, they welcomed the President’s announcement of his intention to support a bill on risk-free motherhood, which will help improve access to sexual and reproductive health services for women and girls.

“Sierra Leone is taking concrete and meaningful steps towards advancing human rights, including through the recent abolition of capital punishment,” the experts said.

The Government’s response to female genital mutilation will be a testament to whether such commitment can extend to women’s rights”.

About the experts

The experts who signed the statement are Reem Alsalem, Special Rapporteur on violence against women and girls, its causes and consequences; Morris Tidball-Binz, Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions; and Tlaleng Mofokeng, Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health.

Special Rapporteurs and independent experts are appointed by the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council to examine and report back on a specific human rights theme or a country situation. The positions are honorary and the experts are not paid for their work.

First Person: Helping Afghan women to heal

“I have helped women survivors of violence regain their strength and resilience for the past 20 years. Each time I supported a woman, I felt victorious. I always wanted to do more and help even more women.

Now, I feel like every day new barriers are standing in my way, time stronger than the previous one. The number of women and young girls who need counselling is increasing.

Families are struggling to put food on the table more and more day by day and there are literally no jobs, putting violence at home on the rise. Women who were sole wage-earners have lost their employment—this is impacting their mental health. Schools are closed for girls; they feel like they have been robbed of their hopes. It is also becoming harder to engage men in the community to protect women against harmful practices and social norms.

Women wait for their children to be screened for malnutrition at a clinic in Balkh Province, Afghanistan.

WFP/Julian Frank
Women wait for their children to be screened for malnutrition at a clinic in Balkh Province, Afghanistan.

Early and forced marriage on the rise

All of this has made families resort to harmful ways of coping with everyday difficulties. Among them, early marriages and forced marriages are now frequent occurrences.

I have been working for over 20 years in this field. Families in my province know me. Women feel safe to share with me more than just the need for mental care. I listen to them every day as they tell me about the dreams they had—where they used to work or wanted to, where they wanted to go to school. They are eager to learn, and they are asking for more spaces for women where they can be free, learn and share their experiences.

In the mornings when I leave for work, I always tell myself that I am more than a counsellor. I am a healer for the women I work with, for my community. I am helping women overcome trauma but most importantly, I am helping them find the hope they lost and make new, brighter plans. Every day, I help women to enrol in literacy and vocational training classes so that they can continue learning.

What my job has taught me is that women need women to support each other in their healing journey. We need to continue helping women and girls around us to keep learning; it the only way to learn, to heal, to be healthy, to hope as they continue their journey on this bumpy road. The power to brighten our dark days lies in each and every one of us.”

* Names, locations, and course of events have been changed in this article to ensure the safety of the Afghan woman human rights defender featured.

UN Women in Afghanistan

  • UN Women is on the ground in Afghanistan, supporting Afghan women and girls every day.
  • The agency’s in-country strategy pivots around investing in women—from scaling up support for women survivors of violence in provinces where they have never been before, to supporting women humanitarian workers in the delivery of essential services and providing seed capital to women-led businesses.
  • The goal of rebuilding the Afghan women’s movement remains central to the agency’s work.
  • Find out more about UN Women‘s work in Afghanistan, and the situation for women in the country, one year on from the Taliban takeover, here.

First Person: Heartbroken but hopeful, under Taliban rule in Afghanistan

“I told myself that I should travel to Kabul and buy additional equipment, including a fridge, before I expanded my bakery business. This dream never came true as my country fell into the hands of the Taliban.

I used to run a business in my province. I employed five women to bake cookies and cakes that I would sell in a shop I rented in the women’s market.

In Afghanistan, bakery businesses thrive during Eid—a festival that brings Afghan families together to mark new beginnings. For Eid, Afghans welcome guests into their homes where they serve cookies, cakes, donuts, cream rolls, pastries and dried fruits.

My province is very isolated. Mountains and unpaved and bumpy roads discourage people from travelling outside the province unless there is an urgent need. Fearing the damage along the way, shopkeepers do not bring bakery products from Kabul—the capital city of Afghanistan and the main hub where food, clothes and everyday essentials are transported to other provinces. I decided to produce all of these in my province.  First, I opened the bakery business, then I rented my own shop in town, where I sold other items produced by women—handicrafts that celebrate our culture and clothes for women and children.

As word spread that there was a bakery open in our province, people would travel from remote villages to purchase my products. I then realized it was time to expand the business by opening more shops around town. This meant hiring more women and buying the equipment—like fridges to store and keep the products fresh.

Women receive food rations at a food distribution site in Herat, Afghanistan.

© UNICEF/Sayed Bidel
Women receive food rations at a food distribution site in Herat, Afghanistan.

‘I had to shut down my business’

Within those weeks, as I was planning my expansion, the Taliban took over Afghanistan. I did not expand my business; I had to shut it down. The women I employed lost their jobs—most people in my province lost their jobs. Women faced restrictions in running businesses and working at all. Businesses can barely survive as people have lost their jobs and there is no purchasing power anymore, and as banks are no longer able to give financial loans.

I am heartbroken, but hopeful. I recently re-opened my business, and I am working on a marketing plan to keep it running. Now that many households know about my business—and since women need a women-friendly space more than ever—I am determined to make anniversaries, celebrations, and family occasions memorable by serving fresh cookies, cakes and pastries. My shop will again be a place for women to come together.”

* Names, locations, and course of events have been changed in this article to ensure the safety of the Afghan woman human rights defender featured.

UN Women in Afghanistan

  • UN Women is on the ground in Afghanistan, supporting Afghan women and girls every day.
  • The agency’s in-country strategy pivots around investing in women—from scaling up support for women survivors of violence in provinces where they have never been before, to supporting women humanitarian workers in the delivery of essential services and providing seed capital to women-led businesses.
  • The goal of rebuilding the Afghan women’s movement remains central to the agency’s work.
  • Find out more about UN Women‘s work in Afghanistan, and the situation for women in the country, one year on from the Taliban takeover, here.

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