Afghanistan and the struggle for women empowerment

Letter to editor

UNFAMILIAR with what is about to confront her, a rather confused infant girl is gently removed from the womb and is brought out into the light, crying and shaking her fists incessantly pleading for guidance – a shadow soon casts over her – a reality check reminds her of her place in the world.

This new, cursed world of darkness appears to now be no different to the confined space she was once nestled in.

However, as she starts to grow older, she finds the darkness to be nauseating – the feeling of being trapped viciously haunts her – her fate has been decided; she is expected to restart the cycle yet again with a child of her very own, and to do only that.

A deep sadness overwhelms her. She realises that it is all she will ever amount to – a beast of burden – chained only to the reproductive cycle; kept away from realising the dreams she may have had for herself and told that she just wasn’t born for anything more.

This is the insufferable reality experienced by women all over the world – a plight condemned by the international community with efforts in place to ensure that women are invited to participate in all areas of life.

Country in disarray

The issue of women empowerment has recently sprung into relevance in Afghanistan. The Taliban’s recent decision to resolutely exclude women from opportunities afforded by educational institutions in Afghanistan reverses historic efforts spearheaded by those who dared to dream of a life outside the mere confines of the home, to be free to pursue dreams of their very own.

Growing frustrations over what is to be strictly expected of them have prompted many to protest the Taliban’s decision, expressing profound sadness and regret.

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With the country already in significant turmoil as it is still in the phase of recuperating from a war, the decision threatens to exacerbate the polarised relationship between Afghani citizens and the newly-minted Taliban government, Afghanistan now has the spotlight entirely shone unto itself by the international community – having to confront criticism of its policies.

A beautiful nation, Afghanistan has had to endure so much in its quest for self-determination, and it has the potential to achieve the greatest heights for itself.

My hope is that a discussion of this issue can be facilitated in a civil manner – factoring in the interests of both the Taliban government and the people of Afghanistan.

This is to ensure that the country is not harshly or unnecessarily anathematised as this only serves as provocation but instead have our concerns shared to them diplomatically. This is considering that since the Afghanistan leadership has only recently assumed power, it must be given the opportunity to clarify its position and respond to the mounting pressure.

I wish to share my reasons on why a reversal of this decision would prove to benefit the country of Afghanistan if more opportunities for women are afforded to them – ridding the age-old narrative that the war-torn country could not achieve respectable self-governance – becoming a metropolis of the Asian world and as an example for all to follow suit.

Economic empowerment

Christopher Hitchens once remarked that it had appeared to him that of all the solutions to poverty posited by economic theorists, the empowerment of women was what he found to be the most efficacious.

Research conducted by United Nations (UN) Women has demonstrated that in light of the fact that the participation of women contributes to economic diversification, the country will be better safeguarded against sudden, external shocks that threaten to destabilise the economy as there will be a highly productive workforce that can offset this through the re-allocation of resources from affected businesses and industries in order to usher in economic recovery through new, strategic investments.

Photo credit: Anadolu Agency via Getty Images


The inclusivity of women also ensures that Afghanistan is in a stronger position to acclimatise to the pressing demands of the technological age – the greater summoning of the entire potential of the labour force – the more able the country is in adapting to these ever-changing demands and as a consequence avoid economic stagnation.

Political empowerment

Greater political representation afforded to women strengthens the relationship between the people and its government, inspiring mutual trust and increasing cooperation at all levels of society, in turn emboldening social cohesion.

This also contributes to an enhanced understanding as to the technical needs of the citizens that are routinely subject to controversies as there are representatives that better understand the issues—bringing stability to a multi-ethnic and multi-tribal county such as Afghanistan through the formation of a more well-informed leadership.

Respected international standing

The empowerment of women also increases the respected visibility of a country. This places Afghanistan in a more ideal position to exercise its soft power in promoting its cultural values – bridging the divide between itself and some factions of the international community – which better achieves the goal of the Afghan leadership having its moral opinions on global issues respected.

A safe haven for women

Even as the world modernises, the issues that confront women persist. From sexual slavery to systematic oppression, the inclusion of women in all areas of its society in Afghanistan, signals to the world that the country wishes to preserve the interests of women – becoming an epicentre of female empowerment – inviting women who have been historically disenfranchised from all over the world to have the opportunity to develop and realise their dreams and pursue ambitions of their very own in order to bring change to the world.

This issue must be approached with caution and diplomacy. While it is hoped that there would be a revised understanding of the policy there has been put forward, what is crucial for the world as a whole is an Afghanistan that is stable and at peace. This I wish for the country of Afghanistan. – Dec 27, 2022


Pravin Periasamy
The views expressed are solely of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Focus Malaysia.     

Main photo credit: CNBC

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