Uncertainty in the air for women, migration prospects in Afghanistan – Afghanistan

Kabul, August 16, 2022 – In early 2021, Wargis*, a young Hazara woman, was working as an English teacher in northern Kabul. Nearby, Sheeba* dreamed of pursuing higher education and eventually opening her own computer center that charges low fees to women in her area.

Jobs for men were booming in the construction sector as the neighborhood expanded from wasteland to a new home for internally displaced persons (IDPs) and returnees returning to their homes. native country. Homes, schools and road infrastructure developed rapidly. For women, beauty salons and tailoring workshops were established, as many of them had acquired these skills.

Although tensions and unease among women have increased over the past two years, most women in the region have expressed hope to study, work and build their lives within their community.

However, on August 15, 2021, everything changed overnight.

Immediately afterwards, the private sector collapsed and the Taliban were unable to pay public sector personnel, creating uncertainty and fear for the future. Many businesses have closed as employers and employees, mostly men, have been forced to migrate overseas due to the impact of sanctions and rising inflation. Women often remained in the areas where they lived, facing restrictions on movement, education and work under the Taliban.

“The main concern for me is that I can no longer work and go to university. I have been restricted and I am not a free person. When I think of my past efforts, my heart bleeds. Now I have no success,” Resham said.*

Escape has become the preferred option, but there are clear limits for women. Some women whose male family members had previously emigrated expressed fear of crossing international borders alone. This was compounded for some, like Resham, who also had female family members with significant health issues for which they would also be responsible during the migration.

“My father is in Iran and he says if we can [we should] going to Iran illegally, but my sister’s health issue is serious and we cannot take the risk,” Resham added.

Many, like Wargis, were waiting for help from family members abroad who had been unable to obtain legal status allowing family reunification.

In addition, many women left behind lack information on how the diaspora could help their family members and other Afghans in the country. Others report uncertainty about whether they will be able to access passport services, travel abroad or return to work in the future.

For many women left behind, their daily lives have changed dramatically, especially their mobility. Many were too afraid to leave their homes and had abandoned all previous activities, including community groups and women’s empowerment projects. They found themselves trapped within the four walls of their rooms, much like in the first era of the Taliban regime, or at least as they had heard of it.

“Women are restrained; they cannot go out to work or study. The public service is completely diminished. People want to receive their national identity card and their passports, but there is no organization to offer them services. Educational centers are open but girls are banned from school and university. Our future is completely dark and we see no light in our lives,” Wargis said.

The near erasure of women from the economy has far-reaching impacts on communities, as women were the backbone of the Afghan economy, making their valuable contributions as medical personnel, educators and entrepreneurs. They are now, for all intents and purposes, unable to work due to new restrictions.

All women and girls in Afghanistan have the right to access education and equal opportunity. They must be empowered and included in social, economic and political life in Afghanistan – this is crucial for the future and development of the country.

The women left in Afghanistan ask: “What awaits us now? A year on, the response appears to be steadily worsening as women’s rights and freedoms – including freedom of movement – continue to erode.

Durable solutions are essential to support Afghan women who have remained behind, for example by providing them with legal documents, access to protection and basic services, and the continuation of humanitarian assistance for the most vulnerable, in especially those who are displaced or who return.

The conversation must continue to highlight women’s voices and develop solutions based on their needs.

As Resham said, “My message to the international community is that the situation is very bad for Afghans; we need their attention and support. They must take into account the rights and freedom of women. People are dying of poverty and limited access to finance. It is therefore time to intensify their humanitarian activities and rescue us.

*Names have been changed to protect identities.

About this research

In June 2021, a team of researchers from Samuel Hall were conducting research in the northern Kabul district of Dashte Barchi called Shahrake Mahdia on how migration was fundamental to the city’s development as well as the hopes of its women – all like Wargis, Sheeba and Resham.

On August 15, 2021, everything changed. The women who told us their story in June spoke to us again in September. This blog focuses on their voices. Data collection included key informant interviews with 17 local residents – business owners, non-governmental organization employees, government officials, police officers, teachers and youth representatives – informal interactions and observations, as well as four focus groups with men and women. Follow-up calls in September 2021 were made with several women and business leaders initially interviewed in June, to gather their thoughts and how their circumstances had changed under the Taliban.

* The IOM is partnering with Samuel Hall on various research projects. This text is based on the article “Afghan women, migration and their future” by Samuel Hall authors Nassim Majidi, Najia Alizada, Katherine James and Marta Bivand Erdal, and was published in the *Special issue on migration policy practices on Afghanistanin June 2022.

Leave a Reply