Life is hard for women fighting for their rights in Afghanistan. Women activists, parliamentarians and women in public life are often subjected to threats and violence: many high-profile women rights advocates and female Ministry of Women's Affairs officials have been targeted and killed in recent years. Armed groups have also targeted girls’ schools, attacking teachers and students.

The Taliban have an appalling record of human rights abuses both in government and as insurgents. Today in areas they control or influence, as when in government, the Taliban severely curtail the rights of girls and women, including the denial of education, employment, freedom of movement and political participation and representation.

We are very concerned about the possibility of women’s rights being traded away in the current peace negotiations between the Afghan government and the Taliban. To date, women have yet to be meaningfully and adequately represented during all stages of peace talks. The incoming Afghan president, voted in at the April 2014 elections, needs to make sure the rights of girls and women are protected and advanced – not traded away.

One of the worst places to be a woman: breaking down the numbers

  • Afghanistan is the 2nd worst country in the world to be a mother 1.
  • 1 woman in 11 dies in pregnancy or childbirth in Afghanistan 2. In Australia the risk of maternal death is less than 1 in 7,400 3.
  • 87% of women in Afghanistan experience domestic violence 4.
  • 13% of females over 15 years old are literate, compared to 43% of males 5.
  • Almost double the number of boys compared to girls are enrolled in school 6.
  • The average Afghan woman won’t live to see her 50th birthday 7. In Australia female life expectancy is 84 years 8.
  • Afghan women earn 25 cents or less for every dollar men earn 9.
  • 27 per cent of parliamentary seats are held by women 10.
  • Only 16 per cent of peace agreements in the last two decades have contained a reference to women and gender11.
  • According to local reports, from mid 2012 to early 2013, 30 female political and civil society leaders have been killed. Female political candidates are the target of 90 cent of all threats against candidates in Afghanistan12.
  • Targeted attacks on civilian women and children as they go to work or school have increased by 20 per cent in 2012 compared to 201113.


You can't be an active woman in Afghanistan and not feel threatened. It is part of my daily life. I never know what is going to happen next. In the last five years, many high profile Afghan women have been killed for trying to raise the profile of women or defend their human rights. I take one day at a time but try to work on issues that will have a lasting effect.

Shinkai Karokhail, 36
Occupation: Member of the Afghan Parliament

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