Afghanistan is currently one of the most difficult countries in the world in which to identify as a woman. Political and economic insecurity, educational inequality, sexual violence, and poor health are pervasive among Afghan women and children. Nevertheless, when equipped with powerful vocational and economic tools, women can change their lives, regardless of circumstance.
In modern Afghanistan, the social and economic outlook for Afghan women has worsened:
- Economic insecurity, sexual violence and a lack of healthcare resources are pervasive among Afghan women following the breakdown of their freedoms and protections.
- Domestic violence, early and forced marriage, and abduction is prevalent, with no accountability for the perpetrators.
- As of February 2023, UNESCO reports that 2.5 million school-aged girls and young women in Afghanistan do not attend school.
- The ban in 2022 by the de facto government saw 1.2 million denied access to college and secondary schools.
“After the control of Afghanistan by the de facto government, our training center was banned, and it was very painful for me.”
-Zainab, SWSN Participant
The exit of foreign troops and the rise of the de facto government has also weakened the country’s economy. The combination of severe droughts, the demise of government services and the withdrawal of foreign aid services has also left over 70 per cent of Afghans struggling to feed their families and purchase daily necessities. 97 per cent are estimated to be at risk of living below the poverty line by the United Nations Development Programme.
Report: No One Hears Our Voices
In interviews, Afghan women and women’s rights organizations describe their experiences under Afghanistan’s new de facto government and set out their hopes for the future. In their own words, Afghan women in the report call for women’s rights, inclusion in public life, urgent economic relief, and for the international community to step up in solidarity with them.
Report: “Where I Am Going and Where I Am” - The personal and professional opportunities and challenges facing Afghan women human rights defenders outside Afghanistan
Our Work in Afghanistan
In the midst of the women’s rights being upended across the country, we still see remarkable fortitude among the women we serve as they strive for self-sufficiency and financial independence.
Since 2002, we have operated in five provinces of Afghanistan. Participants of our Stronger Women, Stronger Nations program (SWSN) receive vocational training for jobs like animal husbandry, tailoring and knitting, participating in savings and self-help groups, and learn to invest in their businesses as they receive stipends. Through this curriculum, they become prepared to receive an income and invest in their own savings. They are also trained by local staff on how to embrace and defend their rights, influence decision making in their households, and create social change in their communities.
“Today, I feel like a fortunate person. I have my own business, and I have become a self-sufficient woman."
-Nasima, SWSN Participant
Our programming was paused after the takeover of Kabul in 2021, during which some of our most at-risk staff and their families were evacuated. For the remaining staff, we provided mental health resources to support them during such frightening and uncertain times.
At the close of last year, the rights and freedoms of Afghan women were dealt bitter blows. On December 21, 2022, the de facto authorities imposed a ban against women attending universities, a heartbreaking development for many women in the middle of their exams. Three days later, on December 24, another ban was announced against women working for foreign aid organizations.
Thanks to our locally led team, we also secured special permission from the de facto authorities for our female staff to complete the distribution of $60 cash assistance to our program participants, which allows women to invest in their small businesses, income-generating activities or to help meet their urgent needs. In late January of 2022, our SWSN program resumed in four provinces.
Since 2002, a total of 130,226 Afghan women have been reached. 1,900 women enrolled in the Stronger Women, Stronger Nations program in 2022, and 1,041 previously enrolled participants graduated.
67% of women were involved in decisions about working to earn money in their households, compared to 43% at enrollment.
- Women averaged household savings of $28.24, compared to $.16 at enrollment.
- 16% reported discussing community issues with other women, compared to 8% at enrollment.
- Our local team has reached 6,677 men through our Men’s Engagement Program.