One Year of Taliban Takeover: Missing Afghan Labor Women | Taliban News

It has been a year since Masuda Samar, 43, a senior civil servant in an Afghan ministry, walked into her office.

On August 15 last year, she came home early from work to be with her family after learning that the then Afghan president had fled the country, paving the way for the Taliban to take over the capital Kabul.

When she returned a few days after the chaos following the takeover subsided, Samar, who requested that her name be changed to avoid Taliban persecution, was told that she would not was more welcome in the office where she had spent the past 17 years. of his life.

The Taliban have imposed several restrictions on women’s freedoms since their return to power.

“I feel so insulted”

Although the new regime did not directly fire government workers such as Samar, it did prevent women from entering workplaces, paying them dramatically reduced wages to stay at home, many workers said. Afghans to Al Jazeera.

“We have been back several times over the past year [to appeal for their jobs]. We decided to wait at the doors of the ministry for whole days waiting to get our hands on the new minister, to convince him to reconsider this decision, but they [Taliban guards] would fire us,” Samar told Al Jazeera.

Samar regularly withdraws her meager salary due to financial pressures on her family. But she feels humiliated.

“Every time I go to the bank, I first wipe away my tears because I feel so insulted to take this sum, that I don’t even have the right to work and earn. I feel like a beggar,” she said.

“But last month I received a call from the HR department, asking me to introduce a male family member to take my place. The HR manager said the workload had increased due to lack of of female staff and they wanted to hire men to replace us,” she said.

“I was the one who studied to get this job. I worked hard to climb the ladder and get this position despite the difficult challenges. Why should I leave my job to my husband and my brother? she asked, frustration seeping into her voice.

Meanwhile, in the private sector as well, several organizations have reduced the number of female employees, either out of financial crisis, coercion from the Taliban, or as a precautionary measure to avoid the wrath of the group.

I studied to get this job. I worked hard to climb the ladder and get this position despite the difficult challenges. Why should I leave my job to my husband and my brother?

by Afghan government employee

A study this year by the International Labor Organization (ILO) documented a disproportionate drop in female employment in Afghanistan – 16% in the months immediately following the Taliban’s takeover. In contrast, male employment fell by 6%.

“In the pessimistic scenario in which restrictions intensify and women do not feel they can safely report to their workplaces, the magnitude of job losses for women could reach 28%”, warns the report.

Prior to the Taliban’s takeover, women made up 22% of the Afghan workforce. While this figure is still dismal, it reflects years of social progress in a deeply patriarchal and conservative society like Afghanistan.

“Women’s participation in the labor market in Afghanistan has increased significantly over the past decades, in some cases better than in our regional neighbours,” Afghan economist Saeda Najafizada told Al Jazeera.

‘Less power’

Working women in Afghanistan are also vulnerable to the shocks of unemployment due to the current economic crisis, restrictions imposed on women’s movements by the Taliban and the prevailing patriarchy.

“Women have less decision-making power in Afghanistan. Even the decisions made by themselves, in many cases, are heavily influenced by societal norms that somehow push them to accept undesirable outcomes,” Najafizada said.

She said the effect is devastating to the economy as it leads to more people having less or nothing to meet their basic needs and thus falling below the poverty line.

“The absence of women from work spaces in Afghanistan affects not only their homes but [also] makes an entire economy dysfunctional,” she added.

While Afghanistan’s economy has suffered severely from Western sanctions against the Taliban, women-centric businesses have been among the hardest hit due to additional restrictions imposed on women.

A recent World Bank survey noted that 42% of women-owned businesses in Afghanistan had temporarily closed, compared to 26% of men-owned businesses.

In addition, around 83% of businesswomen indicated that they expected revenue losses over the next six months, forcing them to engage in coping mechanisms such as downsizing their staff, often made up largely of women.

“A quarter of women-owned businesses listed insecurity and restrictions on women’s business and economic activities as one of their top three concerns,” the report said.

The absence of women in the labor market is also felt by their male colleagues.

“The women in our department were among the most professional and provided technical services to our clients,” said Ghafoor, a supervisor at a Kabul branch, who declined to share her full name or occupation, fearing retaliation from officials. Taliban.

“I have never had a complaint with them and they have provided crucial services which we are unable to compensate for in their absence.”

Ghafoor said none of the women in her department were allowed to return to work after the Taliban took over last year, increasing the workload of male staff and reducing production.

“There are times when we work 12 to 14 hours to complete the tasks, but we still cannot achieve our goals. It affected our overall productivity,” he said.

However, women like Samar who held government positions are resisting efforts to replace them. They have mobilized with their colleagues and are seeking to negotiate to return to their offices.

“We are trying to campaign with the current executives, but the HR manager told me that if I don’t recommend a male relative soon, they will hire someone else and I will automatically be fired,” Samar said. .

She said she felt humiliated to be offered a role she had trained for years to an unqualified and inexperienced male relative.

Samar added that it was worse for women who did not have an immediate male guardian.

“One of my colleagues is a widow and her sons are in Iran. Who should she introduce [to take her job]?”

Samar’s monthly salary supplemented her husband’s income, helping to pay for their family expenses and their daughter’s education.

“I haven’t paid his school fees for two months. I can’t even afford his book and notebooks,” she said.

She feared her daughter, who was in sixth grade, would not even be able to study next year because of the Taliban’s ban on secondary education for girls.

“In the country where I built my life, my career, my daughter doesn’t even have a future. I feel like we’ve been buried in a black hole. I breathe but I am not alive.

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