Women’s rights key for Afghanistan’s economic recovery

United Nations

The report highlights the dire socio-economic situation in Afghanistan since the Taliban regained power in August 2021. The erosion of women’s rights and the near collapse of the banking system are major concerns.

The Afghan economy has not bounced back from the 27% shrinkage it experienced in 2020 and is currently operating at a very low level. This is largely due to restrictions on the banking sector, disruptions in trade and commerce, weakened public institutions, and lack of foreign investment and donor support in key sectors such as agriculture and manufacturing.

The loss of technical expertise and capabilities, including women employees, in public institutions, particularly in the economic sector, is further exacerbating the situation.

While there have been some improvements in maintaining stability and security, controlling opium production, and reducing illicit trade, they have not been enough to change the country’s trajectory.

The humanitarian and economic crises, as well as restrictions on women’s rights, have had a devastating impact on women in Afghanistan. They have limited access to public spaces, face food insecurity, and experience income inequality compared to men. The proportion of women working in all sectors has also significantly decreased.

The report introduces the Subsistence-Insecurity Index (SII), which measures deprivation using 17 non-monetary indicators across three dimensions. According to the index, nearly 70% of Afghans are unable to meet their basic needs for food, healthcare, employment, and other daily necessities.

International aid has been crucial in Afghanistan, preventing starvation, preserving livelihoods, and preventing economic collapse. However, aid flows are decreasing at a time when the majority of the population remains highly vulnerable, according to Stephen Rodriques, UNDP Resident Representative in the country.

He emphasized the need for complementary investment to stimulate the private sector, financial system, and overall production capacity of the economy.

The report underlines the need to address challenges in the banking system, including the microfinance sector, which is essential for supporting women-led micro and small enterprises that have been hit hard by a 60% contraction since 2021.

UNDP stressed the importance of prioritizing women’s economic participation in any efforts to address the crises in Afghanistan. The agency called for integrating local economic development, building resilience against shocks, and promoting private sector-led growth to sustain livelihoods.

It also urged for a focus on long-term recovery and prioritizing the needs of all vulnerable Afghans, especially women and girls.

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