The following report was been prepared by courageous women reporters of the The Afghan Times for the IUF Asia/Pacific.

The current situation of women workers in Afghanistan is dire due to the policies enforced by the Taliban since their takeover in August 2021. The Taliban has systematically marginalized women and girls, seeking to erase them from public life. They have implemented bans on education, restricted access to employment, and imposed severe restrictions on women’s freedom and mobility.

One of the first actions taken by the Taliban was the ban on high school education for women and girls in September 2021. Subsequently, they extended the ban to universities, preventing women from pursuing higher education opportunities. This has severely limited the educational prospects and intellectual development of Afghan women.

In December 2022, the Taliban issued a decree banning Afghan women from working for non-governmental organizations. This further hampered aid efforts and hindered the ability of aid workers to provide necessary support to families in need. The ban has created additional challenges in registering and verifying cases of those requiring assistance.

The current situation for women workers in Afghanistan is characterized by significant challenges and limitations. The Taliban’s policies have restricted access to employment opportunities, preventing women from contributing to the workforce. In some regions, women are completely barred from working, depriving them of the ability to pursue their chosen professions or earn a living.

Even in areas where women are allowed to work, they face numerous obstacles and limitations. The Taliban’s extremist and flawed interpretation of Islamic law imposes gender segregation and restricts women’s freedom of movement. These restrictions make it difficult for women to travel to workplaces or engage in certain occupations.

Women spoke with reporters for The Afghan Times about the hardship they face

The economic impact of these restrictions is profound. Many women who were previously employed in sectors such as education, healthcare, and government administration have been forced to cease their work. This loss of income and professional fulfillment has significantly affected their economic empowerment and independence.

Moreover, societal stigma and traditional gender norms persist, further hindering women’s participation in the labor force. Cultural biases and discriminatory practices undermine women’s rights and their ability to pursue employment opportunities.

Despite these challenges, Afghan women workers have demonstrated remarkable resilience and determination. Many have sought alternative ways to contribute to their families and communities, such as starting small businesses from home or engaging in informal work arrangements. Their unwavering commitment is a testament to their strength in the face of adversity.

Efforts to improve the situation of women workers in Afghanistan must prioritize gender equality, the rights of women in the workplace, and the elimination of discriminatory practices. Creating safe and inclusive working environments, ensuring access to education and skills training, and fostering economic opportunities are crucial steps toward empowering women and dismantling the barriers they face.

Ultimately the current situation of women workers in Afghanistan is fraught with challenges imposed by the Taliban’s policies. However, the resilience and determination of Afghan women inspire hope for a future where they can fully participate in the workforce and contribute to the development of their country.

Women share their experiences with reporters for The Afghan Times

We have extensively communicated with hundreds of women workers across nearly ten provinces of Afghanistan. Through various means such as phone calls, in-person meetings, messages, and video/audio interviews, we have actively gathered information from women predominantly employed in the hotel and agriculture sectors. Our efforts have focused on documenting and reporting their progress, as well as addressing the challenges they encounter.

The women workers have shared with us their experiences of progress in the face of limited opportunities. They have also discussed the cultural, economic, and educational program challenges they face, along with other difficulties encountered in their work.

Afghan women navigate new employment in hotels and agriculture amid challenges

Photo by a reporter for The Afghan Times

Amidst the closure of other employment opportunities, a significant number of women in Afghanistan are finding themselves drawn towards the hotel and agriculture sectors. These fields have become preferred career paths for many women, including those with professional backgrounds, non-professional workers, and those who have recently entered these industries.

Despite the daunting circumstances, Afghan women have displayed remarkable resilience and determination, showcasing their skills and expertise in these sectors. With limited options available, the hotel and agriculture industries offer inclusive and supportive work environments, fostering personal and professional growth for women.

Photo by a reporter for The Afghan Times

The hotel sector presents a range of opportunities, including management, guest services, and culinary arts, allowing women to demonstrate their talents and contribute to the success of the hospitality industry. Similarly, the agriculture sector has seen a surge in female participation, empowering women to make substantial contributions to food production and security. Roles such as farming, livestock management, and agribusiness have provided women with economic independence and a chance to contribute to the nation’s food self-sufficiency goals.

However, the decision to pursue careers in these sectors comes with its own set of challenges. Women face societal biases, gender disparities, and limited access to resources and training opportunities. Nevertheless, their determination to succeed and positively impact their families and communities remains unyielding.

In a remote area of Afghanistan, two women workers tend to their fields. Photo by a reporter for The Afghan Times

The increasing presence of women in the hotel and agriculture sectors signals a positive shift in Afghan society, reflecting the resilience and ambition of Afghan women. By embracing these career paths, women not only gain financial independence but also break barriers, challenge stereotypes, and contribute to the nation’s development.

As Afghanistan undergoes a critical period of transition, it is crucial to recognize and celebrate the achievements of these women. Their stories serve as a testament to the untapped potential within the female workforce and emphasize the importance of creating inclusive and equitable opportunities for all.

With a concerted effort from various stakeholders, including authorities, industry partners, and educational institutions, it is essential to prioritize the provision of education and training programs tailored specifically to the needs of women entering the hotel and agriculture sectors. Bridging the educational gap and offering comprehensive training initiatives will empower these women, unlocking their potential and fostering a more inclusive and prosperous workforce.

By investing in their education and training, Afghanistan can enhance opportunities, promote gender equality, and drive sustainable growth in these crucial sectors. It is through collaborative efforts that we can overcome the challenges faced by women transitioning into the hotel and agriculture industries, ensuring a brighter future for all.

Afghan students’ dreams shattered as Taliban close women’s schools

Photo by a reporter for The Afghan Times

Zahra Rahimi, a promising school student with hopes of pursuing higher studies in her favorite faculty, finds her dreams shattered as the Taliban regime in Afghanistan closed down women’s schools across the country. The abrupt closure of her school has left Zahra without access to education and uncertain about her future prospects.

Zahra, like many young women in Afghanistan, had aspired to continue her education after completing high school. With a passion for learning and a desire to specialize in her preferred field, she eagerly anticipated the opportunities that awaited her. However, her aspirations were abruptly curtailed by the Taliban’s rise to power.

The new regime’s stringent policies led to the immediate closure of women’s schools, stripping Zahra and countless others of their right to education. The decision has cast a shadow of uncertainty over the educational future of young women, leaving them at a disadvantage in their pursuit of careers and personal development.

Currently, Zahra finds herself working in a sweet bakery, a job that she had taken up out of necessity rather than choice. She explains that she initially aimed to work in the hotel industry, a field she had hoped to study after completing her education. Unfortunately, due to the closure of schools, Zahra was unable to gain the necessary qualifications and knowledge required for employment in her desired profession.

The lack of education in her chosen field has presented Zahra with numerous challenges. Without formal training or credentials, she faces difficulties in finding employment opportunities that align with her skills and aspirations. The sudden shift in her career trajectory has left her feeling unprepared and ill-equipped to navigate the job market.

Zahra’s story is emblematic of the struggles faced by many young women in Afghanistan following the Taliban’s takeover. The closure of women’s schools not only hampers individual growth but also impedes the nation’s progress by denying its women the chance to contribute fully to society.

International organizations, human rights advocates, and concerned individuals worldwide have voiced their deep concern over the Taliban’s actions, urging for the restoration of women’s education and the protection of their rights. They stress that education is a fundamental right that should be accessible to all, regardless of gender.

As Zahra and countless others grapple with the challenges brought about by the closure of women’s schools, the hope for a brighter future lies in the collective efforts of the international community to support and empower Afghan women. By working together to promote access to education and advocate for gender equality, we can help individuals like Zahra reclaim their dreams and rebuild a more inclusive society.

Women in the hotel sector are constrained by a lack of education and training

Amid notable advancements in various sectors, women in Afghanistan are grappling with numerous challenges. While agriculture and the hotel industry have gained popularity as sectors for female employment, women face constraints due to a lack of professional education, training, and opportunities for growth.

Photo by a reporter for The Afghan Times

The emergence of women taking on diverse roles within the hotel industry, such as cooking and more, represents a significant departure from traditional gender norms in Afghanistan. However, despite this encouraging trend, women continue to encounter significant barriers that impede their full integration into the industry. In a comprehensive survey involving hundreds of women, not a single woman was found to have pursued formal education in the hotel sector. Consequently, all female hotel workers in Afghanistan have entered the field without prior educational training or access to relevant programs.

This dearth of educational opportunities translates into a workforce composed entirely of women who lack formal training or exposure to educational programs in the hotel sector. As a result, these women must rely on their inherent skills, resilience, and on-the-job learning to navigate their roles within the industry. Their remarkable achievements in the face of such adversity underscore the immense potential for growth and empowerment that could be realized if women were provided with formal education and training opportunities in the hotel sector.

Addressing this disparity and fostering inclusivity within Afghanistan’s hospitality industry are critical steps towards achieving gender equality and promoting economic development. Encouraging tailored educational initiatives specifically designed for women in the hotel sector is crucial to equipping them with the necessary skills and knowledge to excel in their roles. By dismantling the barriers that hinder women’s entry into the field, the untapped potential of countless aspiring women can be unlocked, contributing to the overall progress of Afghanistan’s economy.

It is imperative for relevant stakeholders, including government bodies, NGOs, and educational institutions, to collaborate and develop comprehensive programs that provide women with access to quality education and training opportunities in the hotel industry. Furthermore, promoting gender-sensitive policies and initiatives that establish a safe and inclusive work environment for women will be essential in sustaining their progress and inspiring others to follow suit.

As Afghanistan endeavors to build a more inclusive society, addressing the gender disparity in the hospitality sector must take center stage in efforts to empower women and foster economic growth. Offering education and training opportunities will not only enable women to thrive professionally but also contribute to the overall development of the nation. This transformation will turn the hotel sector into a vibrant and diverse industry that embraces and celebrates the talents of all its members.

Taliban extends ban on women’s education to private universities, hindering women’s pursuit of higher studies

In a further blow to women’s educational rights, the Taliban, who previously barred girls from attending public universities, have now extended their ban to private educational institutions. This latest restriction, implemented on January 28, 2023, has created additional obstacles for women in pursuing their desired academic paths.

Masooma, an agricultural science graduate works on her own mushroom farm. Photo by a reporter for The Afghan Times

Previously, the Taliban’s ban on girls attending public universities had already drawn international condemnation. Now, with the inclusion of private universities, the opportunities for women to access higher education in Afghanistan have become severely limited. This regressive policy not only undermines the fundamental right to education but also restricts the potential growth and development of women in the country.

Interestingly, despite these setbacks, there has been a recent surge in the presence and interest of women in agriculture faculties within Afghan universities. This notable increase in female enrollment in agricultural studies has had a positive impact on Afghanistan’s economy. The significant progress made by professional women in the field of agriculture has captured both domestic and international attention.

Unfortunately, the ban on women’s education has cast a shadow over these promising developments. As progress continues behind closed doors, the potential contributions of Afghan women to the country’s economic growth and prosperity risk being stifled.

The international community remains concerned about the deteriorating state of women’s rights in Afghanistan, as the Taliban’s restrictions further entrench gender inequality. The denial of education not only hampers individual aspirations but also hinders societal progress and inclusivity.

As the world watches Afghanistan navigate this challenging period, the plight of women in pursuing education serves as a stark reminder of the obstacles they face in their quest for personal and professional fulfillment.

Challenges faced by women workers in the IUF Sectors in Afghanistan

Photo by a reporter for The Afghan Times

Women workers in Afghanistan’s agriculture, hotel, and International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers’ Associations (IUF) sectors encounter numerous obstacles that hinder their progress and equality. A closer examination reveals that the primary challenges they face include strict limitations imposed by the Taliban, a dearth of educational programs, restricted access to essential resources, and an inadequate work environment.

Firstly, the prevailing restrictions enforced by the Taliban pose a significant barrier for women working in these sectors. The Taliban’s policies often curtail women’s freedoms, restrict their mobility, and undermine their participation in the workforce. These regressive measures impede women’s ability to pursue their chosen occupations, stifling their economic independence and professional growth.

Photo by a reporter for The Afghan Times

Secondly, a lack of educational programs exacerbates the plight of women workers. Insufficient access to quality education and vocational training further restricts their opportunities for advancement. By investing in robust educational initiatives tailored to the specific needs of women in agriculture, hotels, and the IUF sectors, greater empowerment and skill development can be achieved, enabling women to overcome existing barriers and contribute more effectively to their respective industries.

Unrecognized and invisible, women strive to feed the country. Photo by a reporter for The Afghan Times

Another critical concern is the limited access to materials necessary for productivity and success. Women workers often face challenges in acquiring essential resources such as tools, machinery, and supplies. This scarcity significantly hampers their ability to perform their tasks efficiently and compete on an equal footing with their male counterparts. Ensuring equitable distribution of resources is crucial to bridging this gap and facilitating gender equality within these sectors.

Furthermore, the absence of a suitable work environment tailored to women’s needs adds to the challenges they encounter. The lack of adequate facilities, such as separate restrooms and nursing areas, compromises their safety, health, and overall well-being. By implementing gender-responsive policies and creating inclusive work environments that accommodate women’s requirements, employers can foster a more supportive atmosphere conducive to their success.

These multifaceted challenges faced by women workers in agriculture, hotels, and the IUF sectors demand immediate attention and targeted interventions. Governments, organizations, and stakeholders must collaborate to address the restrictive policies imposed by the Taliban, prioritize educational programs, enhance access to vital resources, and create gender-responsive work environments. Only through concerted efforts can Afghanistan unlock the full potential of its female workforce, ensuring equal opportunities and fostering sustainable economic growth for all.

Women engaged in farm work. Photo by a reporter for The Afghan Times