Futures in the Balance: Urgent call to ensure Afghan women's and girls' rights under Taliban rule

Teresa Casale
Teresa Casale
August 18, 2022

Mina’s List has joined a coalition of women's and human rights organizations to publish a new policy brief entitled “Futures in the Balance: Taking Action to Ensure Afghan Women’s & Girls’ Rights Under Taliban Rule.” The brief, released on 15 August 2022 – one year since the Taliban took over  – calls on the U.S. government to address the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan and use its leverage to fully restore the rights of Afghan women and girls.

Months before the Taliban captured Kabul, Afghan women warned of the dangers of an unconditional U.S. withdrawal for the future of their rights. These warnings were ignored. U.S. and coalition troops withdrew from Afghanistan before any kind of intra-Afghan peace deal could be negotiated – leaving women and girls with no assurances of their rights under a Taliban regime.

Since coming to power, the Taliban has enforced a gender apartheid across Afghanistan. Women have been prohibited from working, traveling without a male guardian, and showing their faces in public, while girls above grade 6 have been banned from attending school. These restrictions are compounding Afghanistan’s humanitarian emergency, leaving women unable to participate in the workforce, provide for their families, and deliver vital healthcare and gender-based violence (GBV) services. As a result, 12 million Afghan women and girls are now in urgent need of humanitarian assistance and nearly 100% of female-led households are not getting enough to eat.

Despite supportive rhetoric, the international community’s response to the crisis in Afghanistan has lacked a critically-needed gender lens. The U.S. government in particular has failed to meaningfully include women throughout its diplomatic engagement with the Taliban and has continually deprioritized Afghan women political leaders in its evacuation and resettlement programs.

It is now imperative that the international community holds itself accountable for Afghan women’s rights as part of diplomatic engagement with the Taliban. Time is running out.

Our policy brief is based on the coalition’s expertise and calls on U.S. and global policymakers to: 

  • Prioritize women-led organizations in the delivery of humanitarian aid, especially essential food aid, healthcare, and support to victims of gender-based violence.
  • Restore the function of Afghanistan’s Central Bank and utilize the $7 billion in seized assets of the Central Bank to stabilize the economy, lift women and families out of poverty, and invest in the future of the economy and society. 
  • Restore UNAMA’s political leadership and full implementation of its WPS mandate, giving it resources, leadership, and political support it needs to implement the gender and dispute resolution components.
  • Expand access to resettlement for Afghan women political leaders and human rights defenders and implement formal protection mechanisms for women awaiting resettlement.
  • Prioritize the use of diplomatic channels at multiple levels to reinstate women’s rights to work, travel, and move freely so they can contribute to the economy. 
  • Enhance the capacity of the State Department, CARE team, and Special Envoy for Afghan Women, Girls, and Human Rights to advance the issue of Afghan women’s rights.
  • Demand benchmarks on women’s rights and a quota for Afghan women’s representation on Taliban delegations as a precursor to diplomatic discussion. 
  • Push for Taliban officials who are playing a key role in rights abuses to be subject to individualized punitive measures such as reinstating the UN Security Council-enforced travel ban. 

Mina’s List is proud to publish this new brief and we urge the U.S. government to take these steps to support women and girls in Afghanistan.

Read the full brief here.

Teresa Casale
Teresa Casale
Executive Director