It’s 10:00 AM and the only sound in the cramped room is the constant whirring of the sewing machine. A young girl sits behind it for hours, diligently stitching and ironing the dress she’s been working on. Despite once harboring dreams of becoming a politician, she now spends her days and nights as a tailor. She has taken up this work to help her father support their family’s expenses.
After the Republic regime fell, Fatima’s father, a former government soldier, lost his job with the rise of the Taliban and the downfall of the Afghan army. To help her family financially, Fatima took up tailoring, which is the best job she has found so far. She spends most of her days sewing to make ends meet.
In an interview with Hasht-e Subh Daily, the young tailor, Fatima (pseudonym), shares, “My father held a good position in the Republic regime. Despite living in a rental house, his income was sufficient for our entire family, and we had a better economic standard, so we never had to ask anyone for help.” She continues, “We grew up in luxury and abundance, and even our family did not take our clothes to a tailor but bought them from expensive stores. I never dreamt of becoming a tailor.” Fatima goes on to explain that they were able to buy a car with her father’s savings and went on weekly outings.
When the Taliban took over and the Republic Regime fell, Fatima was an 11th-grade student. She vividly remembers the day when they were going to school after the fall of Kabul. “As we reached the school, the guard locked the gate and warned us that if the Taliban found us, they would kill all of us. It was an incredibly scary moment and was hard to bear. We went back home with tears streaming down our faces.”
Since the Taliban’s return, Fatima and her family’s life has been turned upside down, causing her eyes to fill with tears. Her father, a former military man, is now one of the many housebound former government troops, and their economy has been severely damaged. Despite finishing her final exams in school, Fatima is unable to pursue higher education.
The young girl had hoped to study law and enter university after finishing school. Her ambition was to become a politician, but now she spends her days behind a sewing machine, stitching her dreams one by one with a needle and thread.
Three months after the fall of the Republic regime, Fatima started learning how to sew as a form of entertainment. The Taliban had imposed restrictions on girls’ education and prohibited them from going to school, university, and educational or training centers. To fill her days with productivity and overcome the deprivation of education, Fatima decided to learn sewing, and she has since become skilled in this craft.
Fatima shares a rented house with her parents, two brothers, and four sisters. Her father, who was previously employed under the Republic regime, has been unable to find work under the Taliban regime. Although he has some experience with house painting, the family’s main source of income is sewing, supplemented by his small income from painting.
Fatima also says that sitting behind the sewing wheel for hours to sew a piece of clothing is very difficult for her. Before being sentenced to house arrest by the Taliban, she used to spend her time studying, reading books, and socializing with her peers. She never even dreamed of holding a needle and thread instead of a book, even in her sleep.
Although it is challenging, Fatima finds sewing a viable option. She often works late into the night to earn extra income. Fatima dreams of pursuing her education in ten years and vows to work hard to achieve her goals. Having experienced oppression, she deeply values education and hopes to become a successful politician one day to help women in her country heal their wounds.
Like Fatima, millions of other young girls are now trapped in an “open prison,” forced to stay at home and endure poverty and deprivation. In August 2021, the Taliban took control of the country and placed girls and women under house arrest.