The Taliban have asked women working at Afghanistan’s finance ministry to send a male relative to do their job a year after female public-sector workers were barred from government work and told to stay at home.
Women who worked in government positions were sent home from their jobs shortly after the Taliban took power in August 2021, and have been paid heavily reduced salaries to do nothing.
But several women told the Guardian they had received similar calls from Taliban officials requesting they recommend male relatives in their place, because the “workload in the office has increased and they need to hire a man instead of us”, according to one woman who did not wish her identity to be revealed.
Sima Bahous, executive director of UN Women, said in May: “Current restrictions on women’s employment have been estimated to result in an immediate economic loss of up to $1bn – or up to 5% of Afghanistan’s GDP.
“There is almost universal poverty in the country,” she added. “An entire generation is threatened by food insecurity and malnutrition.”
Maryam*, 37, received a call from the HR department of the Afghan ministry of finance, where she had worked for more than a decade. She said: “I was asked to introduce a male family member to replace me at the ministry, so I could be dismissed from the job.”
Her voice quivering with frustration, Maryam, said she had worked her way up over many years within the ministry to head of the department. “How can I easily introduce someone else to replace me?” she asked. “Would he be able to work as efficiently as I have for so many years?
“This is a difficult and technical position I was trained for and have years of experience in. And even if he could do the same work eventually, what would happen to me?
“Since they came [to power], the Taliban have demoted me and reduced my salary. I cannot even afford my son’s school fees. When I questioned this, an official rudely told me to get out of his office and said that my demotion was not negotiable.”
Several attempts by the Guardian to seek a response and clarification from Taliban officials at the ministry went unanswered. It is not clear if women from other state departments have also been asked to send male relatives to do their job. However, Maryam said she was aware of at least 60 female colleagues from the finance department who had received similar calls.
Read full story on The Guardian