Afghan women are rapidly losing their jobs as the economy shrinks and rights are curtailed

KABUL, Jan 20 (Reuters) – At a small tailor shop in Kabul, Sohaila Noori, a 29-year-old Afghan entrepreneur, watches as her drastically reduced workforce of around 30 women sew scarves, dresses and garments for babies.

A few months ago, before the radical Islamist Taliban movement took power in August, it employed more than 80 people, mostly women, in three different textile workshops.

“In the past, we had so much work to do,” said Noori, who was determined to keep her business going in order to employ as many women as possible.

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“We had different types of contracts, we could easily pay a salary to our master tailors and other workers, but currently we don’t have any contracts.”

With Afghanistan’s economy in crisis – billions of dollars in aid and reserves have been cut and ordinary people have little money even for basic needs – businesses like Noori’s are struggling to stay afloat.

Worse still, the Taliban will only allow women to work subject to their interpretation of Islamic law, prompting some to quit their jobs for fear of being punished by a group that severely restricted their freedom the last time it ruled.

Hard-won gains on women’s rights over the past two decades have been swiftly reversed, and reports by international rights experts and labor organizations have painted a grim picture of women’s employment this week. and access to public space.

Although the economic crisis is hitting the whole country – some agencies predict that it will leave almost the entire population in poverty in the coming months – the effect is felt disproportionately by women.

Sewing shop owner Sohaila Noori, 29, poses in her workshop in Kabul, Afghanistan January 15, 2022. REUTERS/Ali Khara

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(Open for a chart on employment levels under the Taliban)

“The crisis in Afghanistan has aggravated an already difficult situation for women workers,” said Ramin Behzad, International Labor Organization (ILO) senior coordinator for Afghanistan.

“Work in key sectors has dried up while new restrictions on women’s participation in certain economic areas are also hitting home.”

The employment level for Afghan women fell by around 16% in the third quarter of 2021, according to an ILO report released on Wednesday, compared to 6% for men.

According to the ILO, female employment is expected to be 21% lower than before the Taliban takeover by mid-2022 if current conditions continue.

For the workers in Noori’s workshop, the opportunity to earn money outweighed other worries.

“Most of our families are worried about our safety. They call us repeatedly when we don’t arrive home on time, but we all continue to work (…) because we have problems economic,” said Lailuma, who gave only one name out of fear for his safety.

Another worker, Saleha, now supports her entire family.

“My monthly income is around 1,000 Afghans ($10) and I am the only working person in my family… Unfortunately, since the Taliban came to power, there are (almost) no income.”

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Reporting by Kabul Newsroom; Written by Charlotte Greenfield; Editing by Mike Collett-White

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Clifton L. Boyd