The New Humanitarian Annual Report 2021

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Losing Hope - Women in Afghanistan

In April 2007 IRIN Films returned to Afghanistan to report on the plight of Afghan women nearly six years after the overthrow of the Taliban regime by international forces.

Despite notable achievements in the education sector and the representation of women in Afghanistan’s parliament, its women still endure chronically high rates of infant and maternal mortality, growing insecurity and horrific levels of domestic violence.

“In late 2001 when the Taliban were overthrown by international forces, we hoped the situation would change for Afghan women with respect to women's rights and gender equality,” said Horia Mossadeq, an Afghan women’s rights activist. “But unfortunately the situation has not changed for a large proportion of the female population.”

Watch IRIN's Afghanistan films
 Losing Hope - Women in Afghanistan - June 2007

When Afghanistan's long civil war finally came to an end with the fall of the Taliban in 2001, its women dared to hope. But six years later, broken promises and a resurgent Taliban have left their dreams in tatters.  View Transcript

[English]    [English]    [Duration: 19:41]

» To order a copy of the film, click here

 Opium abuse among women

 This video short looks at opium abuse among women and children in north eastern Afghanistan. Afghanistan is the world's leading producer of illicit opium.


[Duration: 01:30]

 Bittersweet Harvest: Afghanistan's war against drugs

Just as it emerges from more than two decades of war, Afghanistan now finds itself embroiled in yet another confllict - the war against drugs. September 2004 (14 mins - Media Player)

 [English]    [English]   

[Duration: 14:08]

Shot largely in the remote northeastern province of Badakhshan, Losing Hope opens a window onto the lives of Afghan women. Served by few roads and even fewer health centres, expectant women here face a greater chance of losing their lives in childbirth than in any other country in the world.

The maternal mortality rate is 6,500 per 100,000 live births here.

The difficulty that many women face accessing health care facilities means that some have turned to the medicinal qualities of opium to quieten untreated ailments and unruly children - prompting spiraling rates of addiction in the process.

Culture, and the attitudes of men are another obstacle women face in their battle to establish their rights. In Badakhshan, all women must seek the permission of their husband before seeing a doctor while some men will not allow their wives to see a doctor under any circumstances.

In a country where four out of every five women are illiterate, the need to educate is perhaps the most pressing of all. Significant achievements have been made, but in the more violent southern and eastern provinces, the policy is under serious threat.

As Taliban insurgents and other conservative forces have strengthened over the past two years, schools have been burned down, female teachers killed and the parents of thousands of children terrorised into keeping them out of school.

''This is a scream to the international community to say, ‘look how much we are suffering and no one is here to help us’.''

Horia Mossadeq, Afghan women’s rights activist

It is not just the militants that leave women and girls cowering at home. Rates of domestic violence continue to rise in a country traumatised by decades of conflict. Early marriage remains common and honour killings continue largely unchecked while self-immolation remains the last refuge of the desperate.

To borrow the words of Horia Mossadeq, this film is “a scream to the international community to say, ‘look how much we are suffering and no one is here to help us’.”

This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information:

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