Afghanistan dispatch: ‘Women and children in vast numbers can be seen scavenging for food on the streets to support their families.’ Dispatches
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Afghanistan dispatch: ‘Women and children in vast numbers can be seen scavenging for food on the streets to support their families.’

Law students and young lawyers in Afghanistan are filing reports with JURIST on the situation there after the Taliban takeover. Here, a Staff Correspondent for JURIST in Kabul reports on the implementation and consequences of the Taliban’s policy banning women from work. For privacy and security reasons, we are withholding our Correspondent’s name. The text has only been lightly edited to respect the author’s voice.

The Taliban retook control of Afghanistan 18 months ago, after US and NATO soldiers withdrew. The Doha Agreement between the Taliban and the US Government, which allowed the Taliban to continue fighting the former Islamic Republic and consolidate their control daily in the country, was the foundation of the pullout.

As soon as the Taliban seized control, they began enacting laws and policies in line with their interpretation of Islamic and sharia law. Girls were thus prohibited from attending schools, a rule that is still in full force today. Previously, international NGOs had been forced to seal their doors to women until the Taliban Government developed an appropriate policy on how women should work. Universities were later closed to women and girls, and recently, universities nationwide were forced to do the same.

Due to the restriction on women working in national and international organizations, thousands of families lost their employment and sources of income, and the detrimental consequences have already been apparent. Women and children in vast numbers can be seen scavenging for food on the streets to support their families. According to local sources, a lot of women and children are being pushed to participate in illegal activities. With the Islamic Republic’s fall, the employment rate has significantly reduced, notably for women. The International Labor Organization reports that since the Taliban retook power in Afghanistan, the number of women and young men working in national and international organizations has already plummeted by more than 25%. As a result, thousands of families are left with no income and this has encouraged families to flee the country in search of a better life.

After the ban’s implementation, a number of foreign organizations have developed campaign initiatives that encourage the Taliban government to allow women to return to the workforce. These pressures and advocacies, however, appear to be ineffective and the Taliban insist on their policies.

The Taliban’s Minister of Higher Education and Minister of Vice Prevention and Propagation of Virtue have recently been sanctioned by the European Union. The EU asserts that these two Taliban authorities played an important role in keeping women out of the workforce and higher education. However, these policies have in practice put little to no pressure on the Taliban to reverse their decision on the social life of women in Afghanistan.

Over half of the population of Afghanistan is keeping a close eye on the humanitarian aid provided by the international community due to the country’s already-collapsed economy. Nonetheless, millions of people continue to complain that neither the Taliban government nor the national and international organizations are really helping the indigent population.

The failure of financial institutions like the Afghan Central Bank to control the country’s payment systems, as forewarned by the World Bank, has led to the collapse of the financial industry. According to the World Bank, the off-budget funding meant to support humanitarian basic services is still far below what is required to meet the needs of the country’s poor.