Malnutrition: The Hidden Struggle of Afghan Women and Children 

In times of conflict, political instability, and social unrest, women and children have always been the ones who face the most dire consequences compared to the rest of the population. 

It is nearly three years since the Taliban returned to power and their extremist views and restricting edicts against Afghan women has been one of the major  human rights crises. Afghan women’s rights are under constant attack by the Taliban. However, the silent struggle that Afghan women are facing on top of the restrictions on their rights and existence is food insecurity and malnutrition. 

Women are struggling to feed their children and themselves, leaving them all malnourished. 

Currently, 15.5 million people are considered to be facing acute food insecurity, 2.7 million of which are in an emergency situation. In 2023, it is estimated that 1.2 million Afghan women were malnourished. According to the World Food Programme, this number is only expected to grow this year. The statistics for Afghan children are also supposed to grow this year, reaching 3 million malnourished children. 

Acute malnutrition is at a dire point for women and children as about 50% of  children under five years of age and 25% of pregnant and breastfeeding mothers need nutritional support in the coming 12 months in order to survive. 

The context behind this crippling reality for Afghan women is a combination of many factors, including a struggling economy as well as high unemployment rates. With a struggling economy, Afghan families are unable to pay for food to support their families. When the Taliban takeover occurred, a large number of Afghan families lost their main sources of income as international aid was suspended in sectors including the government, non-profits, humanitarian efforts, and in education and health sectors. Furthermore, Afghanistan is facing rising rates of inflation that make food and nutrition expensive for families to buy. 

The Taliban’s restrictions on women also exacerbates the malnutrition crisis. Even highly educated women cannot earn income because of the Taliban restrictions on their employment and freedom of movement. 

Afghanistan’s hunger and malnutrition crisis is often forgotten given the other wars around the world where famine and food crises are more visible. However, in addition to food insecurity, Afghanistan is one of the top 10 countries facing maternal and child mortality due to several reasons, including malnutrition. The health of women and children will continue to drastically decline unless sustainable interventions, such as allowing women to work and earn an income, are put in place to support families.

The consequences of a malnourished population of women and children are severe. With malnourished children, the next generation of Afghanistan will face life-long health consequences, such as  cognitive impairment, and will have far worse quality of life. The economy will suffer as well because of a lack of a qualified and educated workforce. The GDP will continue to face losses and the recovery will take even longer. 

Importantly, when an expecting mother is malnourished, it is more likely that their child will be born of a low-birth weight. This opens a large possibility of future health concerns for the child, including increased risk of adult chronic disease, frequent infections, and reduced mental and physical capacity. 

Targeting malnutrition in Afghanistan and working to improve the nutrition of women and children must become as much of a priority as it has been in other parts of the world where there’s more visibility on food starvation. Targeting malnutrition means improving the health, physical growth, cognitive development, school performance, and productivity of Afghan women and children. By supporting the growth of a strong and prepared population of women and children, there is the potential to improve Afghanistan’s social and economic development in addition to the empowerment of women. 

Sources: Ariana News, Khaama Press, Human Rights Watch, World Food Programme, Relief Web, UNSCN, UNICEF  

The Taliban Misuses Religion And Culture To Promote Their Ideology

Jan Chipchase, Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 DEED

The Taliban has launched attacks against women and girls by using religion and culture to promote their ideology of suppressing women and girls. By altering meanings and conservatively interpreting Islam and Afghanistan’s culture, they have created a severe case of gender apartheid in Afghanistan. 

Recently, in a public engagement, Sirajuddin Haqqani, the interior minister of Afghanistan, said that “Those who are making useless propaganda and think that this government is not inclusive, they are not aware of the culture and tradition of Afghanistan.” 

Haqqani’s justification is tremendously incorrect – Afghan culture and tradition does not exclude women. During the past 20 years of development from 2001-2021, Afghan women redefined and regained their status in society. Afghan women demonstrated that they are not the timid wives who only like to stay at home and do house chores. Instead they demonstrated that they are leaders and changemakers who defied norms and redefined Afghan women’s status as strong, independent, and actively involved in all aspects of life. 

Just before Afghanistan was taken over by the Taliban in August 2021, women comprised 6.5% of ministerial positions in the government. Women served in the government, they served as doctors and midwives, they served as journalists, and more. However, now that the Taliban has taken power, there are 0 women holding positions in the government, female journalists are under restrictions only because of their gender and cannot interview male government officials or cannot attend press conferences without a male chaperone, and female doctors cannot practice without a male chaperone either. 

It is clear that Afghan culture and tradition are not the factors that created an exclusive environment for women. It is the Taliban’s manipulation and misinterpretation of Afghan culture and traditions that has led to women being excluded from the social sphere, political participation, education sectors, and the job market. 

The Taliban misuse Islam as a justification for gender apartheid and restrict women through strict interpretations where they claim that “bad hijab” “violates Islamic values and rituals.” Women are unjustly being arrested and taken by force to locations where they “are held in overcrowded spaces in police stations, received only one meal a day, with some being subjected to physical violence, threats and intimidation.” This is just another example that demonstrates how women are being discriminated against and their rights are being violated because of how the Taliban manipulates religion as a justification to mistreat and violate women. 

Recognizing gender apartheid that the Taliban has imposed is an incredibly crucial step in reversing the restrictions and violations against Afghan women’s rights. Gender apartheid must be lifted and removed to achieve equality against women and men in Afghanistan and allow women to be part of all aspects of public life. 


Tolonews, CNN, VOA, Feminist Majority Foundation, Ms. Magazine, UN News

In Afghanistan, the Absence of Education for Women and Girls has Long Term Implications 

Women’s rights to an education have been under attack by the Taliban since the terrorist group took over in August 2021. The group continues to roll out restrictions on women and girls in Afghanistan everyday. At this moment, girls are not allowed to go to university or secondary school. Even private courses are banned for girls over grade six and in some parts of the country, even lower. 

While these restrictions have been in place for almost 2.5 years, and while the future implications are not as visible now, future loss that results from preventing girls from attending schools will be immeasurable. Much needed human capital is being wasted by the Taliban as women are not allowed to enter the workforce now and in the future, women will lack the skills and competencies even further. 

In the meantime, innovation is lagging as there is less diversity of thought and skills and female voices leading the drive for innovation are missing. Economic losses could be huge from the lack of innovation and human capital from intelligent female professionals if the Taliban continues to take away the right of education from Afghan women and girls. 

The UN Sustainable Development Group (UNSDG) estimates that restricting access to education led to a 21% decrease in employment levels of women by mid-2022 and a GDP loss of $1 billion USD per year. Afghanistan’s economy is already suffering as it “relies heavily on external support and its private sector is weak.” 

Given the already fragile economy, it is crucial that Afghanistan strengthens its economy by building its human capital and the private sector. However, limiting the education of women and excluding them socially and economically means that the Afghan economy will not have the opportunity to recover if they exclude roughly half of the population (48.3%) from entering the workforce with relevant knowledge and skills. 

Furthermore, from 2001-2021, women transformed the political, economic, and social scene for Afghan women as well by receiving an education and using it to pursue jobs in any field, contribute to their communities and societies. Women had the opportunity to be politically active and loud. 

According to the UN Women, “By 2021, Afghan women had secured 69 out of 249 seats in parliament, women were negotiating peace across the country, and even a law was in place allowing women to include their names on their children’s birth certificates and identification cards. There was a Ministry of Women’s Affairs, an independent human rights commission, and a law-making violence against women a crime. But more than this, women were visible—from law, politics, and journalism, to sidewalks, parks, and schools.” 

The social and political progress made for women during the time where education was accessible and promoted for women demonstrates how there is a direct correlation between higher education for women and progress in Afghanistan. 

In a state where education is limited for women, this could only mean that progress in Afghanistan will be stunted in terms of political and social growth. Afghan women worked hard to improve the status of women and create a space for them in society. 

Decreasing the political participation of women leads to a larger gender divide, further increasing the gender apartheid that exists in Afghanistan. 

Even in the healthcare sector, there is a direct relationship between women’s education and health. When women were able to pursue education, the number of midwives and midwifery education increased tremendously as well, lowering the mortality rates of infants and women during birth. There was a direct correlation from increased educational opportunities, increased number of active midwives, and a lower maternal mortality. From 2000 to 2015 as midwifery education expanded, maternal mortality decreased by 64%. 

The long-term impact of women being prevented from education is not only the removal from the social spheres, and economic losses, women’s health will also suffer as the number of midwives decreases with restricted education and maternal mortality increases. 

Education should be protected because not only is it a violation, but allowing women to pursue education creates a opportunities for women where they are able to feel confident to make their own decisions, amplify their own voices, and advocate for the rights to education, health, autonomy, etc., and improve the state of Afghanistan politically, socially, and economically. 


UNSDG; World Bank; UN Women; The Lancet Global Health

A coalition of Afghan women, Together Stronger, defends women’s rights despite the Taliban’s gender apartheid

The Taliban has been punishing women with arrests and physical violence citing claims of what the group calls “bad hijab.” Abdul Ghafar Farooq, the spokesman for the Taliban, has stated that women “violated the Islamic values and rituals, and encouraged society and other respected sisters to go for bad hijab. In every province, those who go without hijab will be arrested.” 

In response to the arrests of Afghan women for “bad hijab,” members of Together Stronger have released a statement condemning the Taliban for these arrests. Together Stronger is a coalition of advocates with women from inside and outside of Afghanistan. 

The coalition states that with the recent “illegal arrests” of women and girls, the Taliban intend “to completely erase women from society, an act that confirms gender apartheid in Afghanistan.” These arrests are a continuation to the unjust edicts, moving forward the Taliban’s plans to create a fully patriarchal society. 

Within the roughly 2.5 years the Taliban has been in power, there have been more than 100 edicts announced that restrict women. Women have been essentially excluded from the public sphere in Afghanistan. They cannot go to school, women working in public offices cannot return to their jobs. They cannot even visit healthcare facilities without a mahram (male escort). Women and girls not only lack the freedom of mobility and freedom of autonomy with the increasing number of edicts being issued, they are facing tremendous security issues as well. 

Women in Afghanistan through Together Stronger are telling the world that women are being arrested, abducted, beaten, and forced into unknown locations at the hands of Taliban members. Their rights and dignity are being violated with new rules being imposed upon them on a regular basis. 

In the face of escalating violence, arrests, abductions, and daily harassment, Afghan women and girls are urging their allies to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with them and hold the Taliban accountable for inflicting harm and violating their basic human rights. 


Together Stronger


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