Women’s rights have been held up as one of the most tangible gains of the international intervention in Afghanistan. Yet, despite 13 years of promises from the international community that women’s rights are a high priority, these gains remain fragile and are at an increasing risk of erosion. As Oxfam publishes the Behind Closed Doors report we share the stories of Afghan women.
At 29, Rangina Karga is living proof of just how far some Afghan women have come since the fall of the Taliban. The youngest sitting member in the Afghan parliament — male or female — Rangina is a masters student, lawmaker and mother, fighting for the development of Afghanistan and the protection of Afghan women.
Rangina and her family stayed in Afghanistan throughout the wars and during the Taliban regime. They celebrated as international forces came to Kabul and the Taliban fell.
“When the Taliban left, I thought we would all be happy. We welcomed the people that came from foreign governments. We hoped that they would bring positive changes to our lives,” Rangina says over tea in her home on the outskirts or Kabul.
Rangina has become a trailblazer for Afghan women representing them in parliament, despite the risks. She’s taken all the opportunities she could to make the most of the freedoms she had, but it has not been easy for all Afghan women.
“As soon as I was old enough, I ran for parliament. I knew women who had freedoms too, who could study again, or work. But then they got married and their husband or their husband’s families have not allowed them to continue. It really hurts me to see these bright women who had so much potential lose their dreams,” said Rangina.
It really hurts me to see these bright women who had so much potential lose their dreams,”
“But life for women has changed. We have women in parliament now — talented women — and we’re supported in laws benefitting women. It is important that women are listened to. After all, women and children are the most vulnerable in war.”
Despite these changes, Rangina is worried about the challenges ahead for Afghan women. Many of them still live with insecurity and conservatism which makes changing their lives far more difficult.
As international forces leave, the risk of a drop in aid that helped protect the gains and rights Afghan women have fought so hard for, is a real one.
“If we are ignored now, life will return to how it was before. We need to maintain an active role in government, not just a symbolic role,” said Rangina
“We must fight. We must carry on being active women and help those women who live in the provinces. Some of those women don’t even know that they have rights. Those are the women who still need our help.”