Women's Rights

A 'dark future' for Afghan women who can no longer work

By Salaam Times and AFP

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Madina, a former journalist whose name has been changed to protect her identity, is silhouetted during an interview with AFP in Kabul on November 13. With the country's economy in tatters, many families have lost a significant part of their income -- the women's wages -- just as Afghanistan faces one of the world's worst humanitarian crises. [Wakil Kohsar/AFP]

KABUL -- At 21 years old, Madina had her dream job: she was a journalist, her salary crucial to her family's life in Afghanistan.

Then the Afghan government collapsed on August 15.

Now, like so many other Afghan women, Madina cannot work and her family has lost her income -- just as Afghanistan's economy collapses and the United Nations (UN) predicts half its population could run out of food during the long, cold winter.

It leaves Madina, trapped behind closed doors, to wonder anxiously how her family will pay the rent and buy the wood to heat their home until spring.

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'I'm so ashamed. It's the first time in my life I'm begging,' Laila, an Afghan mother of six who started to beg on the streets after losing her job when her employer fled the country, told AFP in Kabul on November 16. Her name has been changed to protect her identity. [Wakil Kohsar/AFP]

"I have a dark future ahead," said Madina, whose name has been changed to protect her identity.

Just a few months ago the young woman worked for an American-funded radio station. She dreamed of presenting the news on television and perhaps, later on, entering politics.

Now the station is off the air, and looking for a new job would be futile. Except in specialised sectors such as health and education, few women have worked since the fall of the Afghan government in August.

Incomes lost

Last year, under the previous government, more than 27% of civil servants were women. Now, they have been told to stay home until further notice.

Many families have lost a significant part of their income, just as Afghanistan faces one of the world's worst humanitarian crises.

More than 22 million Afghans will suffer food insecurity this winter, the UN has said, as a drought driven by climate change adds to the disruption caused by the fall of the government.

Madina, who lives with her parents, is the eldest of four girls and two boys. Her father, a labourer, gambled on her education, which until the administration in Kabul collapsed seemed like a good bet.

The family lived on two salaries, Madina's and her father's.

"I was paying the rent," she says. "When I had a job, I could meet the family's needs."

But they now have to buy basic staples such as rice and flour on credit -- and despite winter's cold already biting, they cannot afford coal or wood to heat their home.

"It's very painful for me to see these difficulties," Madina said.

'In prison'

Rabia, 25, who also spoke under a pseudonym, worked at the Ministry of Mines and Petroleum. On August 15 at 10am, she left her office in a panic.

Her male colleagues have resumed their jobs -- but she cannot go back.

"I feel I'm in a prison in my house," she said.

Rabia lives with her sister and brother, who are teachers. Both work but have not been paid.

"We're living on our savings," she said.

There are eight of them in the family, and savings will not last long.

"In two or three months? I don't know; we'll need money to get the house warm in winter," Rabia said.

"I'm asking the international community to exert pressure ... to allow women to work again. They are often the only breadwinner in the family."

'So ashamed'

Laila, whose name has also been changed, is her family's only earner.

Before, she worked as a cleaner for an Afghan family, but they fled when the government fell.

Now the 43-year-old begs in a Kabul market, where -- as the only woman among men -- she makes sure to wear a burqa to "protect my dignity, a little".

She has six children to support, alone. She does not know where her husband is, speculating that he is dead, or has left her for another woman.

"My children are at home. They don't know I'm begging. I have to find money to feed them... We do not have a glass of flour at home," she said.

"I'm so ashamed. It's the first time in my life I'm begging."

When asked if she can provide for her family this way, she bursts into tears.

"I'm very sad," she said. "I have never seen so many difficulties in my life as I have seen in these two weeks."

Madina says she, too, cries every day.

She hardly goes out anymore; she is too afraid. Instead, her day is limited to housework and reading.

"I don't talk about my situation to my friends. We are all the same, it's useless," she said.

Rabia admits she also feels "depressed".

"I'm not good mentally," she said -- but she is trying to put on a brave face for her family.

After all, as they tell her: "You're not the only one in this situation."

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Part 2: Neither anyone asks as; I am doing trade through your country. Do I have permission? The Durand Line's cause died. Afghanistan's legal status was destroyed. In short, Afghanistan is a geography that the Pakistani security advisor goes through. They trade with Central Asia and Europe; however, they don't see the need to count the Afghan government as a partner on the table. Why should Ghani not have been forced to go out? Why should the Taliban not have been given the authority to govern Kabul? Why should the government of Afghanistan not have been destroyed? Pakistan's next stage of economic interests would not have started as long as these works were not done. This jihad was done for this purpose. With regards, Khalid Yousafzai

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