Challenging the Taliban’s belief that women have no place in politics. 

On 7th September, the Taliban announced that they had formed the new Government of Afghanistan after they took control of more than 90% of the country and seized Kabul, the capital, last month. From Prime Minister to Interior Minister, the 33 roles have been unmistakably filled by only men. The Ministry of Women’s Affairs seems to have been forgotten and abolished completely. Women do not hold any major positions of power, as if they are not a part of Afghanistan’s population.

The Taliban has claimed that they have changed since they last ruled the country in the late 1990s and into the 21st country, until the US troops arrived in Afghanistan after 9/11, and that their policies will be more relaxed and supportive of women’s rights. Under the Taliban’s previous rule, women were confined to their homes and did not work or study as they were not allowed to leave the home without being accompanied by a male relative. This time round, they have vowed to respect women’s rights within “the norms of Islamic law”; however, with the lack of any women in the government, their statements that they want to form an “inclusive, Islamic government” are meaningless and empty.

Women’s political participation is extremely important because research has indicated that the gender of the legislator has a significant impact on their policy priorities and the types of solutions proposed. Women tend to champion a high quality of life and respond to citizens’ needs better than men, reflecting the priorities of families, women, and ethnic and racial minorities. Women’s political participation has also been found to result in tangible gains for democracy and increased cooperation across any party and ethnic lines; hence, with Afghanistan being a multi-ethnic country, women representation in the government could be hugely advantageous. Furthermore, Afghanistan is a war-ravaged country, and as a result has an extremely low human development index, so it could really benefit from women playing an active role in the government, as women tend to prioritise health, education, and other key development indicators.

Prior to the Taliban takeover, Afghan woman made up 27% of the parliament — well over the world average of women representation in parliaments, which was found to be 25% in 2020 . Nearly half of the civil service jobs in the Afghan ministries were held by women. Unfortunately, this is no longer the case, and this must be changed. It is important that the voices of Afghan women are amplified because of the great potential of change they can bring to the country. A 30% benchmark should be the goal as this is the minimum amount of representation that allows a “critical mass” to be achieved. This is when there is a considerable minority within legislators, allowing the minority to have a significant impact on the legislation that is formed. The Taliban’s plan of a few token individuals in lower positions is far from enough. While the Taliban’s government is far from democratically legitimate, having the government be more inclusive of the diverse range of groups of a population can increase support and therefore lead to more effective governance.

Beyond just reaching a quota, it is important that a diverse range of women are included; inclusion of women of different ages, ethnic groups, cities and religions allows different perspectives to be brought to the table, which is vital in ensuring that policy and law represents the needs of the whole population rather than a select group.

Women are intelligent, talented, and skilful, and they must have the same rights and power as men in the decision-making process at all levels. JAN Trust offers workshops covering CV writing, interview techniques, confidence building, amongst other things, for minority ethnic women. For more information, and to read more about how we empower women to take active roles in society, please do have a look round our website.