Women were experiencing child marriage, violence, and gave sacrifices for the long war - but after the take-over by the Taliban, the pressures have increased as most of the women have been deprived of their very basic rights: like going to school, getting out of home without a male companion, and working in different sectors.
Samira* is working as a desk information officer in one of the projects - and one the conditions for her employer hiring her was having a male companion. The other condition was wearing Hejab or Burka and not wearing makeup to work. Most of the girls accepted these conditions because they need to work and survive, and one of them was Samira who joined this project in late January 2022. She has her younger brother as a companion, but he is not receiving any payments from her employer.
One of Samira’s colleagues has no brother, and as her father has died, she had no Mahram [companion] to accompany her to work. She lied to the organization as she was in desperate need of job and income to survive. When she went to the community for assessment without a male companion, the organization was informed and subsequently fired her.
“I grew up in war and every night I was sleeping with voice of rockets and bombs in southern Afghanistan, after graduation from university we have had some freedoms to travel or live alone even the circumstance was insecure” said Samira.
“In the last six months, women lost everything and suffered more than anyone. A girl who studied and worked but now she cannot go out of home or should dress based on what the Taliban says” added Samira.
In the past, two to four girls of the families were working, but now they lost their income and this has impacted their family’s economic status. “I was working and had income and could pay all my expenses and could help my family but now the things have changed and now I and my sisters are getting money from the family” said Samira.
Mental health is another big challenge for all women who lost their jobs and setting in home with no income, but no one knows how to address these issues.
Right now in Afghanistan, people don’t have access to enough food and mental health is not a top priority.
“Mental health right now is not a priority - when don’t have enough food to eat then how can they participate and think about other aspects of their lives?” added Samira.
Samira is lucky to have a job in this situation, but for Ziya,* a lawyer, the case is different. Ziya is living with her two sisters and mother, they do not have a man to accompany them to work. They are getting loans from relatives to survive and living in a rental house and have had not paid the house rent in the last six months.
“I have worked for many legal cases as a defence lawyer even other ladies who were my clients are calling me and looking for jobs opportunities, even some of them are begging on the streets now and it’s irritating me that I can’t do anything” said Ziya.
She has studied in Law in Kabul University and has done “Stage” of defence law for one year. “The job opportunities are not available for women who are interested to work, and opportunities are limited. Only some places they hire women as Guards to check the people who get in the courts or some other administrations” added Ziya.
Ziya could not find a job for herself, and she applied for some positions, and they said, “we don’t want women and you should stay at home.”
After the [Taliban] takeover, many things changed: one of her sisters is in school and other is a student in the University. Ziya was helping them to pursue their studies, she was the only breadwinner of the family.
She was responsible for everything at home. Ziya lost her father when she was a child and two of her brothers - aged 17 and 25 years old - have been killed in the same day in a suicide attack in Kabul ten years ago. She had jobs in different courts as a lawyer but now she is unemployed.
For Benesh,* the case is different than Samira and Ziya. Benesh graduated from Midwifery school, and she was a midwife in one of the hospitals in the northern part of Afghanistan, but they moved to Kabul, and she lost her job one year ago. She wanted to change her career and was studying fourth semester of law in one of the universities that the Taliban took over in Kabul.
“I stopped going to University because I did not want to go out of home every day and see the Taliban faces, I decided to not go to University and stay in home” said Benesh.
After the took over by the Taliban, everyone’s life has changed - but women and children are suffering more.
“Every moment we are in fear, especially women and I feel we are the most wretches’ women all over the world, the Taliban ruling but took all benefits from women” added Benesh.
For most of the women they even don’t know the mental health signs and have not been able to access any type of counselling. Benesh cannot sleep properly as she has nightmares and trauma for the future and her younger sister.
Benesh’s brother was a military member and after took over the Taliban has arrested her brother and detained him for few days and released him. Nowadays, her brother has a small local restaurant to fund their life and her sister who was working as a part time administrator lost her job too.
These women are not optimistic about their future and don’t see any light among all the darkness. “If it continues, women will not be able to breathe and do anything, they are removing us from the community in different ways. I don’t know what will happen next?” said Samira.
After the Taliban took over, everything has changed for everyone especially put women in difficult situation. Women went to the Kabul streets and some other parts of Afghanistan and raised their voices for women’s rights - but not later some of them have been killed anonymously and some of the demonstrators have been arrested by the Taliban which caused women to stop going out. The Taliban broadcasted a video of the women who were demonstrators, and they took compulsory avouchments.
Ziya believes, all Afghans only breathe not for life, but their lives. “Women and children will be the first victims if the situations continue, we are facing different oppressions. All the doors are closed for women who were breadwinners, and now we cannot go anywhere or feed the family and kids” added Ziya.
For Benesh, she hopes she could find a counsellor and gets better from all the nightmares she has, and she doesn’t imagine a good future for herself, sister and other women if the Taliban continues to rule.