THE DIFFICULTIES FACING AFGHAN WOMEN WERE DISCUSSED


Women are among those primarily affected by conflicts and wars in different geographies. The difficulties they experience threaten their existence and cause them to have their rights taken away and be exposed to domestic or social violence.

Today, Afghan women and girls are among those who visibly experience human rights violations. Within the scope of this topic, our Programs and Partnerships Coordinator Salima Biglary, participated in the "Strengthening Social Capital of Young Afghan Women for Advancing Peace International Conference" supported by the UN Women Peace Fund in Tajikistan, with the participation of politicians, stakeholders, students, NGO staff, gender experts and the UN, EU and international organizations.

To the conference which aims to accelerate social networking and solidarity to effectively contribute to peace processes in Afghanistan by creating a bridge between Afghan women, Afghan diaspora, peace institutions and policy makers. Biglary, participating as a panelist with her speech titled “Safety and security for women: The impact of conflict and war in Afghanistan”, drew attention to the points that need to be taken both in the social and international arenas regarding how and in what way the social status of Afghan women can change.

 

You can review the article by our Programs and Partnerships Coordinator, Salima Biglary, here:

What is Safety and Security?
Safety
: a state of being safe from harm or danger.
Security: protecting a person, building, organization, or country against threats such as crime or attacks by foreign countries.1 As a brief explanation of UN2 in their guidance of Provisions on Safety Matters, “the concept of “security” covers threats, and the concept of “safety” covers hazards.“

Safety and Security for a Woman?
Women’s safety involves strategies, practices and policies which aim to reduce gender-based violence (or violence against women), including women’s fear of crime.3 Women’s safety and security is of paramount importance yet is almost constantly under threat around the world. While women’s rights are routinely threatened during periods of peace, times of instability and conflict often bring about the worst attacks on women’s safety and wellbeing. For women, safety means that young women and girls, including vulnerable groups, are safe and without the fear of dangers that could lead to their physical, mental, or material harm. These dangers include gender-based violence and gender issues relevant to the social, religious, political context in which they live. The lack of women’s safety is not only a heinous violation of human rights but a barrier to social, economic and political development. Ensuring the safety and security of women is crucial for fostering stability and peace within a nation. The absence of safety and security for women not only constitutes a violation of human rights but also poses a substantial obstacle to the progress of social, economic, and political development.4

The objective of promoting women's safety and security is to enhance the visibility and active participation of women in peace processes, fortify protective mechanisms, and integrate principles of gender equality.5  It means to create a safe, healthy community for all by changing the norms, values, and processes that require everyone in society to participate in solving problems around family relationships, relationships, poverty, discrimination, and sexual violence. In this collective effort, building a healthy, safe community becomes a shared responsibility, emphasizing the need for continuous collaboration and commitment from all community members.

Further, women’s safety must embrace practices, strategies, and policies aimed at reducing gender-based violence in order to free women from poverty and promote their financial security, sense self-worth, and access to safe and healthy communities.6
 
The overall approach to women's security as defined by UN-Habitat and SIDA recognizes the many aspects of the problem and aims not only to reduce violence against women but also to achieve freedom from poverty, financial security, self-sufficiency, and development—a safe, healthy society. In line with the broader goal of promoting safety and social cohesion, financial support is an integral part of understanding and addressing the impact of the environment on women's health, including the right to self-education and strategies to prevent terrorism.  In 2020, the Secretary-General of UN Security Council set five important goals about women, peace, and security for the next ten years. One of them is making sure that women can fully, equally, and meaningfully be a part of important decisions7. In promoting gender-inclusive peacebuilding and conflict resolution, it's important to focus on training and employing women in police and security services.8 So that having more women in these forces is effective in decreasing the occurrence of sexual violence.
 
 

The current context of the safety and security of Afghan women within and outside Afghanistan

Following the de-facto authority’s takeover of control in August 2021, the longstanding conflict in Afghanistan abruptly transitioned into a rapidly escalating human rights and humanitarian crisis. The de-facto authorities swiftly reversed progress made in women's rights and media freedom, both critical accomplishments of the post-2001 reconstruction era. Notable among the many setbacks is the closure of most secondary schools for girls and the banning of women from numerous government positions.

Journalists facing physical assault and detention by the de-facto authorities, leading to the closure or drastic reduction of many media outlets, exacerbated by the departure of many journalists from the country. The absence of women and external ministers in the new de-facto authority’s cabinet underscored a lack of diversity. In various cities, the de-facto authorities actively sought out, threatening, and at times executing former members of the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF), officials from the previous government, or their family members.9

As of 8 March 2023, according to press releases from UN experts in Geneva10, Afghanistan is witnessing a severe deterioration in the rights of women and girls. Despite progress made over two decades, recent developments highlight a significant regression:

  • Educational Restrictions: Girls are now prohibited from attending secondary school, while women face a ban on tertiary education.
  • Activity Limitations: Women and girls are barred from amusement parks, public baths, gyms, and sports clubs for a duration of four months.
  • Workplace Bans: Women are not allowed to work in NGO offices, severely restricting their professional opportunities and their ability to advocate for the rights of women and girls.
  • Exclusion from Public Roles: Since the de-facto authorities' takeover in August 2021, women have been completely excluded from public office and the judicial system.
  • Dress Code and Travel Restrictions: Presently, Afghanistan's women and girls must adhere to a strict dress code and cannot travel more than 75 km without a mahram "Derived from the word haraam, which literally means something that is prohibited, mahram in fiqh Islamic jurisprudence) refers to a person with whom marriage is prohibited because of their close blood relationship, because of radaa’ah (breastfeeding), or because of being related by marriage." 11, effectively confining them to their homes.

How does war and conflict affect women within and outside their home countries?

Since 2017, more than six hundred million women and girls have lived in conflict-affected countries such as Syria, Afghanistan, etc. By 2022 and by the end of 2023, the United Nations Refugee Agency anticipates that approximately 117.2 million individuals will be forcibly displaced or stateless.12

International conflicts and ongoing wars are an example of death tolls leading to mass deaths and displacement of hundreds of thousands of people. Afghans have been suffering more than 40 years of conflict, The war in Afghanistan has led to mass death, poverty, and displacement, which caused over 1.5 million people have fled to neighboring countries. Women, in particular, face greater risks of vulnerability directly linked to conflict and.13

The UN Security Council's study paper on "Women, Peace, and Security" (UN Security Council, 2001. p.13-30) underscores various dimensions of the impact of war and conflict on women. The listed effects encompass:

  • Increased Vulnerability to Violence: Conflict zones see a rise in violence against women, exposing them to heightened risks—gender-based violence surges during and after conflicts, both within and outside the country. The United Nations Human Rights Council14 reported that over 70% of women and girls in humanitarian contexts experienced gender-based violence in 2015, compared to 35% globally. Moreover, approximately one in five refugee or displaced women in complex humanitarian settings has faced sexual violence (UN Women, 2017).
  • Loss of Basic Rights: Conflict often leads to a deterioration of fundamental rights for women, impacting their autonomy and freedoms.15 Globally, women and girls encounter discrimination based on sex and gender. However, during conflict and war, these inequalities intensify. Gender disparities amplify various challenges for women and girls, both as refugees and within their home countries. This includes heightened risks of domestic and sexual violence, lower wages, limited access to education, and inadequate healthcare.
  • Challenges in Education: Access to education becomes more complex, limiting opportunities for personal and professional development. 54% of the world’s out-of-school girls are in crisis-affected countries. That's 69 million girls (INEE, 2021. P.14).
  • Healthcare Access: War disrupts healthcare systems, making it harder for women to access essential medical services, which can cause an increased risk of disease transmission and limited maternal healthcare. Women in conflict settings face three times higher mortality rates compared to those in peaceful environments (Lancet, 2021.p.8).
  • Economic impact: Conflict contributes to financial instability, impacting women's livelihoods and economic opportunities. Conflicts and crises disproportionately affect women and girls, exacerbating poverty.
  • Mental Health Impact: The trauma of conflict significantly affects the mental well-being of women and girls. Approximately 90 percent reported their mental health, in terms of the frequency of feelings such as anxiety, isolation, and depression, as "very bad" or "bad." (UN Women, IOM, UNAMA,2023. P.4).
  • Displacement: Women and girls bear a disproportionate burden in forced displacement, struggling to secure stable shelter. Whether internal or international, displacement heightens their vulnerability, exposing them to security risks, economic instability, and limited access to essential services. Safeguarding displaced women's specific needs and rights is crucial for resilience amid such challenges. Globally, around 108.4 million individuals were compelled to flee their homes due to conflict, violence, or human rights violations, with 50% being women and girls (UNHCR, 2023).

Afghan refugees stand as the world's third-largest displaced population, trailing only behind Syrian and Ukrainian refugees. As of 2023, a staggering 8.2 million Afghans found refuge in 103 diverse countries. A significant number have endured displacement for decades, with the majority establishing homes in neighboring nations such as Pakistan and Iran. Notably, more than 70 percent of those requiring assistance are women and children, highlighting the vulnerable demographic disproportionately affected by the ongoing crisis (Afghanistan Refugee Crisis Explained, UNHCR, 2023).

Conclusion:

In conclusion, the intricate intersection of women's safety and security within conflict and war encompasses multifaceted challenges and consequences. Defined as practices, strategies, and policies aimed at reducing gender-based violence and fostering freedom from poverty, financial security, and self-worth, women's safety is intricately linked to broader societal structures. The current plight of Afghan women amidst the de-facto authorities’ resurgence exemplifies the regressive impact of conflict on women's rights, reflected in educational restrictions, workplace bans, and limitations on public roles and mobility. Beyond Afghanistan, the broader global landscape witnesses a significant rise in displacement, particularly affecting women and girls. The diverse impacts include increased vulnerability to violence, loss of fundamental rights, challenges in education, restricted healthcare access, economic instability, and a profound mental health toll. As refugees face disproportionate risks, Afghan refugees emerge as a poignant example, with women and children constituting the majority of those in need. In essence, the complex nexus between conflict, displacement, and the well-being of women underscores the imperative for comprehensive and collaborative efforts to address these pressing global challenges.

Recommendations/call for action:

National Reconciliation: I highly recommend prioritizing self-care and resource sharing as a fundamental strategy. While seeking external support is crucial in our current situation, it is equally important to assess and utilize the resources within our community. Afghan women, with their diverse experiences, may have valuable insights to share and support one another. By fostering a culture of care and collaboration, we can harness our collective strengths. Additionally, it's advisable to formulate a comprehensive, long-term plan after acknowledging and appreciating the existing resources. This approach ensures a sustainable and empowering strategy for the well-being and progress of all involved.

Immediate Humanitarian Aid: Urgent international assistance is required to address the immediate needs of Afghan women, including access to healthcare, education, and necessities. Humanitarian aid should be delivered with a gender-sensitive approach to cater to the unique challenges faced by women and girls.

Awareness Building: Beyond the de-facto regime, our primary focus should be on the community, including skilled individuals, experts, NGOs, and organizations. It is paramount that efforts concentrate on raising awareness within this community regarding the safety, security, and rights of women. The emphasis should be on creating an understanding of how to establish and prioritize these aspects, emphasizing their crucial importance.

Advocacy for Women's Inclusion: International agencies and NGOs should continue advocating for the meaningful inclusion of Afghan women in decision-making processes, peace negotiations, and the reconstruction of the country. This involves pressuring the de-facto authority’s regime to recognize and uphold women's rights.

Economic Empowerment Programs: To enhance the capabilities of Afghan women, agencies should invest in economic empowerment programs, skill-building initiatives, and job opportunities. This will contribute to rebuilding their lives and fostering resilience in the face of adversity.

Monitoring and Reporting: Agencies should actively monitor and report on the human rights situation in Afghanistan, specifically focusing on women's rights. This involves collaborating with local organizations to gather real-time data and inform evidence-based advocacy.

Support for Refugees: Efforts should be intensified to support Afghan women and children who have sought refuge in various countries. This includes providing access to education, healthcare, and psychosocial support to help them rebuild their lives.

International Collaboration: Governments, NGOs, and international bodies must collaborate to apply diplomatic and economic pressure on the de-facto authorities to respect and uphold women's rights. Unified global action is essential for creating a conducive environment for peace and stability in Afghanistan.

 


1. COBUILD, Collins. 2006. Advances Learns English Dictionary. 5th ed. Harper Collins Publishers.
2. Department of Safety and Security, UN. 2020. Provisions on Safety Matters. United Nation.
3. UN habitat and SIDA. 2013. The Global Assessment on Women’S Safety. UN Habitat.
4. International women's development agency. 2015. Women’S Right to Safety and Security. IWDA.
5. INSTRAW, UN. 2008. Gender Peace and Security Program. United Nations International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women.
6. UN habitat and SIDA. 2013. The Global Assessment on Women’S Safety. UN Habitat.
7. UNITED NATION security Council. 2023. Women and Peace and Security Report. UN Security Council.
8. Donna, Pankhurst . 2000. Women, Gender and Peacebuilding. Centre for Conflict Resolution Department of Peace Studies, University of Bradford.
9. Afghanistan Events of 2021." Human Right Watch. November 3, 2021.
10. Afghanistan: UN Experts Say 20 Years of Progress for Women and Girls’ Rights Erased since Taliban Takeover." Press Release at Geneva, March 8, 2023.
11. 2022. Mahram-Womens-Mobility-in-Islam. Georgetown Institute for Women Peace and Security.
12. 2023. In-focus: The Women, Peace, and Security Debate. UN Women.
13. Afghanistan Refugee Crisis Explained." UNHCR. July 23, 2023.
14. Facts and Figures: Humanitarian Action." UN Women. May 10, 2017.
15. Women’S Rights Are Human Rights." Amnesty.Org. Amnesty International, March 8, 2021.



THOUSANDS OF SMILING FACES IN CHAD!

The ongoing social crisis in Chad brings with it many problems. While the negative picture that emerged strikes a blow to the functioning of the coun ...

HEROIC WOMEN OF MOROCCO...

Aware of the importance of women's inclusion in social life and their economic independence, International Blue Crescent Foundation (IBC), togeth ...

CONTINUING TO TOUCH LIVES IN GAZA

An unprecedented humanitarian tragedy has been taking place in Gaza since last October. The conflicts that have been going on for almost a year are m ...

CLOSE

SEARCH IN IBC ACTIVITIES