Following the takeover of Afghanistan, the Taliban has instituted gender segregation rules at the workplace and educational institutions across the country.
Several women told Rukshana Media that the Taliban’s new plan segregating men’s and women’s workplaces has led to many women working at factories to lose their jobs.
Mina, 16, who worked at a garment factory in western Kabul, lost her job two weeks ago. Mina said the owner of the factory told female employees that he could not provide separate workplaces for men and women, so he fired us.
“One day a few Taliban came and said that girls and boys no longer had the right to work in the same space,” Mina said. “We were all scared and the owner of the factory had to let the girls go.”
“I was good at my job and could do cutting and sewing with the machine.”
“I used my wages to pay my tuition fee,” said, Mina, who was in grade 10. “But unfortunately, the Taliban took away our bread and butter.”
The Taliban banned girls’ secondary education last year, so Mina was working full-time at the factory. Now that she has lost her job, she has to stay home.
Owners of garment factories in western Kabul told Rukhshana Media that sales are down and they cannot provide separate workplaces for men and women.
“Three weeks ago, the Taliban came to the factory and said that women should not work together with men and warned that if they worked together, they would close the shop,” said Karim*, a garment factory owner. “We do not have enough money to provide that, so we let the girls go.”
The women who lost their jobs following the Taliban’s order say that they are facing severe economic hardships. The United Nations has recently said that imposing restrictions on women’s work in Afghanistan has been devastating for families, partly because decades of war in Afghanistan has resulted in a large number of women-headed households.
Women like Fatima, 20, who supported a family of nine have lost their jobs and have no other employment.
“I cannot do the work from home because I don’t have the customers or the equipment,” Fatima said, adding that the Taliban’s rules have taken away the livelihoods of many families.
According to Sadiq*, at least 10 women have lost their jobs in his garment factory following the Taliban order. He said the Taliban threatened they would close his workshop if he failed to obey the rule.
“In these bad economic conditions, we cannot create separate workplaces,” he added, “I owe the landlord three months’ rent for the shop.”
Thirty-year-old Horia is a mother of three children. She lost her husband five years ago in an explosion near the German embassy that killed and wounded more than 80 people.
She is the sole breadwinner of her family and now she is unemployed due to restrictions imposed by the Taliban. “I am illiterate and do not know what to do to feed my children,” Horia said. “The Taliban may as well bury women alive.”
The Taliban’s restrictions, the lack of support for women’s small businesses and an economic recession have put women’s small businesses on the verge of bankruptcy.
Ziba* A 26-year-old female entrepreneur who owns a garment factory in western Kabul, provides tailoring jobs for at least 20 women.
“Unfortunately, the market is completely down and the price of raw materials has doubled,” she said, adding ruefully, “In the previous years we had both high sales and production.”
Mahtab*, another female entrepreneur in western Kabul, closed her factory because it is difficult for a woman to work under the Taliban’s rule.
“Poverty and unemployment have destroyed sales,” Mahtab said, adding that as a boss, she also felt responsible for the safety of her employees – something she could no longer guarantee when the Taliban took over. “The insecurity and my sense of responsibility for the safety of the girls in the factory led me to close it three weeks after the fall of Kabul [in August 2021].”
Experts believe that women’s unemployment has negative impacts on families and society and that Islam does not restrict women from working outside the home.
University professor Abolfazl Alyasi said that the Taliban’s restrictions on women working outside the home run counter to the tenets of the Sharia.
“According to Islam, there is no obstacle to women working outside the home,” Alyasi said. “Small businesses in which women are engaged are, in fact, a step towards an open and prosperous society.”
In April, the Taliban’s interim cabinet called for an investigation into the increase in the numbers of beggars in Kabul. Alyasi said that by creating restrictions and obstacles to women’s work, the number of poor people in society is increasing.
Women’s rights activist Negin Madadi said the Taliban’s goal in separating women and men in the workplace is to exclude women from society.
“The Taliban do not want women to be independent and have financial independence,” Madadi added. “Women’s independence gives women the ability to think for themselves and make their own decisions, something that the Taliban do not want.”
* Real name not used for safety reasons.