Has America Helped Afghan Women?

For basic rights, Kabul is a haven. Elsewhere, the stats remain grim.

For indispensable reporting on the coronavirus crisis, the election, and more, subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter.

Progress Begins at Home

The US invasion put an end to Taliban-era restrictions on women in the workplace, school, voting, and public office. And in theory, at least, Afghans support those changes: Last year, a countrywide survey of 6,593 Afghan men and women revealed strong support for women‘s right to attend school (89 percent), vote (84 percent), and work outside the home (69 percent). More than half said that women should be represented equally in leadership positions. But as novelist Khaled Hosseini points out in “MoJo Interview: Khaled Hosseini, Kabul’s Splendid Son,” those attitudes are put in practice primarily in Kabul, historically something of a cultural island. Across Afghanistan, 57 percent of girls marry before age 16, as many as 80 percent against their will. Boys outnumber girls in secondary school by more than 3-to-1, and the UN logged 293 school-related attacks this past year, a 26 percent jump from 2007—at least 721 schools have been closed due to attacks or threats. Kavita Ramdas, head of the Global Fund for Women, doesn’t find these contradictions surprising, given Afghans’ antipathy toward outsiders telling them what to do. “It isn’t that there aren’t ordinary Afghans who want their daughters to go to school and have the chance to work…but they are a very proud people.” Rather than bankrolling armies of foreign nonprofits, she says, we should be opening our wallets to Afghan civil groups—particularly ones run by women. “Afghan women will make more strides,” Ramdas says, “when their struggles are seen as their own.”

Dear Reader,

This feels like the most important fundraising drive since I've been CEO of Mother Jones, with staggeringly high stakes and so much uncertainty. In "News Is Just Like Waste Management," I try to unpack the reality we all face and how we can rise to the challenge. If you're able to, this is a critical moment to support Mother Jones’ nonprofit journalism: We need to raise $400,000 to help cover the vital reporting projects we have planned, and right now is no time to pull back.

Monika Bauerlein, CEO, Mother Jones

Dear Reader,

This feels like the most important fundraising drive since I've been CEO of Mother Jones, with staggeringly high stakes and so much uncertainty. In "News Is Just Like Waste Management," I try to unpack the reality we all face and how we can rise to the challenge. If you're able to, this is a critical moment to support Mother Jones’ nonprofit journalism: We need to raise $400,000 to help cover the vital reporting projects we have planned, and right now is no time to pull back.

Monika Bauerlein, CEO, Mother Jones

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate