Afghan Women Suffer After Taliban Bars Education, Restricts Jobs

Many women in Afghanistan had high hopes of prosperous careers, but that all changed when the Taliban took control of the country again after the U.S. military’s botched withdrawal from the country in 2021.

Now, there are only 200,000 women in the country who the Taliban has given permission to work, and even then, they’re banned from certain jobs.

Frozen Ahmadzai is one of them. While she had dreamed of being a doctor, and was scheduled to graduate from a university this year, all that has changed. Women are banned from obtaining higher education degrees by the Taliban, which ultimately excludes them from a lot of jobs.

The Associated Press reported on her plight recently. Instead of being a doctor, she works by sewing out of a basement in the country’s capital city of Kabul, and makes pickles.

There aren’t a lot of jobs that are even available to women in Afghanistan, and those that are are usually limited to making food and tailoring. 

Ahmadzai, who is 33 years old, now works alongside other women who used to be teachers, or who were aspiring to be one.

In 2021, right before the Taliban was able to re-seize power in the country, 14.8% of women in Afghanistan were participants in the workforce. Data from the World Bank showed that number had dropped all the way to 4.8% last year.

Once in power, the Taliban imposed very strict measures against girls and women. They must adhere to certain dress codes, can’t go to some public spaces such as parks and can’t get an education after sixth grade.

Ahmadzai recently spoke to the AP about the new reality that Afghan women have to live in. She said:

“We are only looking for a way to escape,” referencing how she works out of a basement.

The positive, if there is one, is that she isn’t confined to her home when she works.

She doesn’t make a lot of money, though, with the average worker earning only about $426 per month. 

Oftentimes, women have trouble even receiving a permit to work, despite the fact that — according to the written law — the process is the same for men and women. 

The Taliban has a ministry that issues work permits, but women are banned from going to the main office. Instead, they have to go to a separate office that’s for females only. 

The Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs’ spokesman Samiullah Ebrahimi said that this is done to “speed things up and make things easier” for women.

But, just getting to the office without being harassed if they’re not accompanied by a male guardian is tough. Then, once there, they have to submit paperwork, a cover letter, a health certificate that a private clinic gives them as well as their national identity card.

For some women, just obtaining all that document is tough, because it could cost a lot of money. 

This is all why one top official with the United Nations said last year that Afghanistan is now the most repressive country for girls and women in the world.