Girls and women are at continued serious risk of losing their basic human rights and freedom since the Taliban established a new government in Afghanistan in 2021.
According to an August 2022 report from Save the Children, published a year on from the Taliban taking control of the country, 46% of girls say they are not attending school in comparison with 20% of boys.
According to the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Afghanistan and the Working Group report from the 53rd Session of the Human Rights Council (HRC) in June 2023, girls and women in the country continue to face widespread and systemic discrimination. This includes depriving women and girls of their fundamental rights, including their rights to substantive equality, quality education, equal participation in economic, social and political life, equality before the law, freedom from torture and other inhumane acts, freedom from discrimination and freedom of movement, peaceful assembly, and of association and expression.
The ongoing economic and humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan means many families are resorting to child, early and forced marriage as a means to support themselves. The report highlights that more than 1 in 20 girls had been asked to marry in order to support their family. The main drivers of this increased risk of child marriage are poverty and loss of livelihood and reduced options for girls who can no longer go to school.
Though Taliban spokespeople initially said their new regime would allow girls and women to work and study within the framework of Sharia law, there has since been a continued issuance of edicts, decrees, declarations and directives that prevent girls and women from accessing education, including a "suspension” on the rights of women to attend University, and a ban on all forms of education beyond grade 6 for girls.
Here are three simple but powerful things you can do to support girls and women in Afghanistan:
- Be an advocate for refugees in your community. Challenge friends, family and colleagues who have anti-refugee points of view. Thousands across the country are at serious risk of reprisals from the Taliban for speaking and acting freely as citizens over the past 20 years. This includes women human rights defenders, academics, journalists and those who have aided the US and allies in peace-building efforts. There are very few opportunities to escape Afghanistan or seek asylum. Help others to understand this and why emergency measures must be taken.
- Write to your local government representative about your concerns for the rights of Afghan girls and women. Ask your government to be inclusive and welcoming to those fleeing the country. This may include expanding the list of refugees eligible for resettlement in your country. It could also involve removing the barriers that refugees face in securing visas, flights, and financial support. You can ask your government to stop any forced returns of Afghan asylum seekers to Afghanistan during this dangerous and uncertain time.
- Donate to organisations who are supporting girls and women during this crisis. Funds are urgently needed to protect Afghan people and ensure their safety.
If you are able, you could offer a one-off or regular donation to organisations working to support the rights of girls and women. Here are some organisations working directly with girls and women in Afghanistan:
Women for Afghan Women (WAW) is a grassroots civil society organisation dedicated to protecting and promoting the rights of disenfranchised Afghan women and girls in Afghanistan and New York. You can answer their urgent appeal by donating here.
Madre is a global women’s rights organisation providing long-term support to women -led groups that are impacted by war and disaster in inaccessible areas. They are calling for funds to facilitate an urgent underground escape and support network in Afghanistan. Donate here.
International Rescue Committee (IRC) helps people whose lives have been upended by war, conflict and natural disasters around the world. They have been responding in Afghanistan since 1988. IRC are appealing for funding to help them continue to deliver aid to support children and families in Afghanistan. You can help them continue their work by donating here.
The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) works to promote and protect the rights of children and women in Afghanistan and have a presence in every region. So far, the Taliban have allowed UNICEF to remain and there is hope that they will be allowed to set up schools which girls can also attend. Donate here.
The Women’s Peace & Humanitarian Fund (WPHF) is an innovative partnership empowering local women to be a force for crisis response and lasting peace. They galvanise support from across the globe to support the efforts of women working on the frontlines of the world’s most intractable conflicts. WPHF are supporting local women’s organisations in Afghanistan to sustain their work on the front lines of conflict and crisis. Donate here.
Afghanaid is a humanitarian and development organisation, working with millions of deprived and excluded families in some of the poorest and most remote communities in Afghanistan. They build basic services, improve livelihoods, strengthen the rights of women and children, help communities protect against natural disasters and respond to humanitarian emergencies. Donate here.
Global Fund for Women are a leading funder of gender justice organisations and movements worldwide. They are funding gender justice groups in Afghanistan and are working to protect and relocate women human rights defenders who are in danger. Donate here.
Together, we can make a difference when we stand in solidarity with the Afghan people and support the rights of girls and women.
In the time it has taken to read this article 58 girls under the age of 18 have been married
Each year, 12 million girls are married before the age of 18
That is 23 girls every minute
Nearly 1 every 2 seconds