On Business Women’s Day, the majority of working women in Afghanistan face daunting economic and psychological challenges. Since the Taliban’s takeover, they have experienced deprivation and severe employment restrictions in both government and non-governmental organizations, as dictated by the group’s misogynistic directives. At the outset of their rule, the Taliban removed women from various positions using various pretexts, transforming organizational roles into male-dominated ones. Many women who previously held diverse positions in government departments during the republic era are now confined to their homes, grappling with financial hardships and mental health issues. Concerned about Afghanistan’s future, these women stress the significance of women’s participation in diverse fields. They argue that the Taliban, since assuming power, not only marginalized women in mixed-gender workplaces but also shuttered women’s vocational organizations, citing reasons such as non-compliance with veiling and Sharia law.
Additionally, some female graduates express concerns about their career prospects under Taliban rule. They say that the continuity of this group’s rule not only alienates them from society and their professions but also raises the number of forced marriages among girls. These educated women report that they have repeatedly applied for positions in various organizations but have not been accepted due to their gender.
Somaya is one of the working women who has been sidelined from her job since the Taliban took control. She used to work in a foreign organization in the media sector. Following the Taliban’s rise to power, this organization was shut down, leaving dozens of women, including Somaya, unemployed. She is currently struggling with a dire economic and psychological situation, stating, “A year after the Taliban’s takeover, they closed down the organization where I used to work because it was specifically for women. Many women who were the breadwinners at home, like myself, are now unemployed. Being confined to our homes has me constantly worried, not knowing how to cope with this situation.”
She further adds that the Taliban have forced women into domesticity under the pretext of Sharia law, especially the issue of the veil, and they are attempting to isolate all women from society. She says, “While it’s true that a few women are still working in some organizations, it’s very rare. They lack the right to access many things, and menial tasks have been assigned to them. This has discouraged women from working.”
Somaya also notes that she has not only lost her job but also her freedom of movement. As a woman deprived of the right to work, she appeals to the global community to take serious notice of the situation of women in Afghanistan so that Afghan women can also celebrate Business Women’s Day.
Ra’na (pseudonym) is another working woman who serves as a reporter for a local media outlet. She has not been removed from her position following the Taliban’s takeover, but the existing job restrictions and threats will likely force her to resign. She explains, “The Taliban haven’t taken my job away yet, but the severe constraints on female journalists are compelling us to leave our jobs. In the current circumstances, we are forced to avoid many subjects and not interview many individuals, especially Taliban authorities, just because we are women. They refuse to be interviewed by women. We can’t participate in press conferences, have to be mindful of our attire, and endure mistreatment due to our gender. All this humiliation and denigration is disheartening. I’ve contemplated resigning many times.”
She states that the Taliban have issued multiple warnings regarding how female employees dress and observe the veil, attempting in every way to discourage women from working: “Since the arrival of the Taliban, they have sent notices to media outlets several times regarding the attire and conduct of female workers. Consequently, some of our colleagues have been forced to resign, and their families have compelled them not to work in such conditions because media outlets are currently under extensive censorship. A single mistake can put our lives at risk. Moreover, since most media organizations lack sufficient budgets to pay their employees’ salaries, they readily accept resignations without delay.”
Ra’na urges the international community to apply strict policies against the Taliban to prevent further suffering of women. She adds that if the current situation continues, remaining women in the workplace, which has become highly male-dominated, will also be forced to step back and leave their jobs. In the third quarterly report by the United Nations and the International Organization for Migration, it is noted that 62% of Taliban orders against women have significantly increased, leading to the further withdrawal of women from various activities.
However, some female graduates are concerned about their career prospects under Taliban rule. They state that despite completing their education, they remain unemployed, and organizations do not hire them due to their gender.
Nahid, one of the female graduates who completed her studies in administration and policy at Kabul University a year ago, reveals her struggle to find a suitable job in her field or any other due to organizations rejecting her applications based on her gender. She says, “I have sent my CV to more than a dozen different organizations, and many of them have not even responded. Some organizations that did respond told me they don’t need female employees, or the organization isn’t currently hiring women.”
Days of confinement at home have left her severely depressed, and she has resorted to seeking work as a teacher in private schools, even outside her field, but these schools have also turned her down due to the significant mismatch between her academic discipline and the lack of budget to hire new teachers. She adds, “I visited private schools multiple times in the hope of becoming a teacher and escaping this depression, but they didn’t hire me. They said I couldn’t handle the students, or the management of some schools said they were not financially sound and couldn’t afford to hire new staff.”
She also points out that if the Taliban’s rule persists and they continue imposing new job and education restrictions on women every day, women will be pushed further to the margins, leading to increased migration and forced marriages among girls. She says, “Most female students and women are currently fleeing Afghanistan, or their families are being compelled to marry off their daughters. If the situation continues like this, Afghanistan’s future will be bleak.”
This comes as, following the Taliban’s takeover, women have been removed from various social, professional, and educational spheres. Many working women who held significant positions in government and non-governmental organizations during the Republic era have been either dismissed from their duties or forced to leave the country due to life-threatening threats from this group. Two years of Taliban rule have led to women becoming confined to their homes and experiencing severe depression. According to the third quarterly report by the UN Women and the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the Taliban have issued more than 50 restrictive orders against women, resulting in women being excluded from various job and educational opportunities. 69% of women in this study have reported an increase in anxiety, isolation, depression, and suicide among young people in the past two years of Taliban rule. They also added that as a result of Taliban restrictions and joblessness, women’s decision-making power within families has significantly decreased. Due to the decline in female employment, mental health concerns have replaced safety and physical well-being worries.