The literacy rate for 15-24 year-old women is 32%

A woman member of parliament in Afghanistan, Shukria Barakzai, escaped death in a suicide bombing last November.

Barakzai, who rose to prominence when she ran underground schools for girls when the Taliban ruled the country, says both the previous Afghan government and its Western benefactors have failed to defend the hard-won rights of women.

“For me, what they do to support women’s rights is just lip service, nothing more than that,” says Barakzai, interviewed in hospital where she was recovering from burns to the left side of her face and her left hand from the attack.

And Afghanistan needs support for women’s rights more than most countries.

World Bank data show Afghanistan still lags far behind even its impoverished neighbours in South Asia.
Only 16 per cent of Afghan females above the age of 15 were active in the labour force compared with 57 per cent in Bangladesh and 27 per cent in India. The fertility rate in Afghanistan is 7.2 births per woman versus 3.1 for all of South Asia. Only 14 per cent of births in Afghanistan are attended by a skilled health worker compared with 36 per cent in South Asia. The literacy rate for 15-24 year-old women was 32 per cent compared with 63 per cent in neighbouring Pakistan.

That’s a gruesome set of stats. 7 children. No medical help in childbirth. Illiteracy. You might as well be born a cow or a goat.

Barakzai, a parliamentarian the past decade, has campaigned against the practice of Afghan men marrying multiple wives; her husband, who runs an oil company, took a second wife without consulting her. She stresses the need for long-term investment in education to compete seriously for jobs instead of aid programmes for “workshops or seminars”.
“If you see their projects, they are always the same. Empowering women by a seminar or workshop. Or embroidery, tailoring,” she laughs. “I am tired of these things.”

Live long and prosper, Shukria Barakzai.



  1. says

    You might as well be born a cow or a goat.

    No kidding. They get more care and a better quality of life because “they have value”.

    “The same U.S. government that drummed up public outrage against the Taliban by decrying the mistreatment of Afghan women goes to Saudi Arabia and keeps its mouth shut. … Saudi Arabia is still the place where America colludes, where we have quietly decided that women’s rights are negotiable.

    – from Megan Stack’s book, “Every Man in This Village Is a Liar: An Education in War”

    I have no doubt the US government takes the same attitude towards women’s rights and lives in Afghanistan. It’s all talk to please the home front, but would sell out those women in a heartbeat if guaranteed oil deals were in place. Washington would even help the Taliban do it.

    The US government’s own actions made it harder for women to get medical care in such countries. Abuse of the Red Cross emblem is a war crime; I guess that’s why the CIA abused Save The Children in Pakistan as a means of spying, to avoid war crimes charges.

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