Impact of Afghanistan Chaos on the Lives of Women

Case study: Freshta

Freshta is a 30 year old woman in Afghanistan whose dreams have been quashed – not by an overbearing husband or a patriarchal family, but by the rule of the Taliban that rode into abrupt power last month in Afghanistan and overtook every small village and major city in a matter of days.

People like Freshta and her husband did not have time to prepare. They did not have days or weeks to gather their belongings and plan their exodus. They could not map out a life beyond Afghanistan and make a plan to attain it – they simply had to accept their new fate and suspend all their plans as they waited for events to unfold.

With the help of ‘A More Balanced World’ Freshta had been attending University, studying the art of midwifery – something very much in demand across Afghanistan. She was only days away from graduating.

It was then that the Taliban rolled in and swept power on the heels of the U.S. withdrawal from all corners of Afghanistan. Freshta’s opportunity to graduate was stolen from her. Her dreams of a career beyond the traditional demands of women in Afghan provinces far from the progressive center of Kabul, were quashed. She held out hope for a little while, but just as swiftly as they swept in, the Taliban made clear that women were no longer welcome in schools and universities across Afghanistan.

Even though Freshta had weathered the financial strains of her humble life and convinced her husband to invest time and energy in her education, she would not have a chance to test her wings and turn her education into a career. She bought a graduation gown and asked her husband to take pictures of her at home, as though they were actually at a graduation ceremony.

The Wall Street Journal reported (on October 11, 2021) that a strange normal is coming back to Afghanistan as the Taliban consolidate power. Residents are returning to towns and villages, after years of displacement, and rebuilding homes and businesses without the fear of bombs and checkpoints. This might be true, but not for women. “I don’t have the right to work in my country,” said a teacher from Kandahar. “I haven’t stepped outside the house in three months,” she admits. “I am mentally broken – we have no future,” she laments on behalf of Afghan women.

The Taliban have made clear, they will not compromise on the issues of women. Women now face more restrictions than in the last two generations and have been made to grapple with the reality that, under the Taliban, they have no freedom of movement. Most women across Afghanistan can no longer leave the house without a male guardian.

This is the backdrop of Freshta’s new reality. She was at the top of her class, she speaks a second language, has marketable skills and the training to save lives and bring life into this world – but she is not allowed to work. She is a woman in Taliban controlled Afghanistan.