NewsAsia"The woman, from the house to the grave"

“The woman, from the house to the grave”

There is no place in the world where the rights of women are not violated. Even in countries where there are laws that protect us, in practice those rights continue to be regularly undermined in private or public.

Exploitation and sexual violence, forced child marriage, lack of access to voluntary termination of pregnancy, physical and psychological abuse, economic violence, trafficking in women, genital cutting and many other symptoms are different manifestations of the same sick idea, that women are inferior beings.

It happens in Mexico, in the United States, in Romania, in El Salvador, in Somalia, in the United Kingdom, Thailand, or Nigeria, it happens in the corridors of the courts and in political debates in Spain, on social networks and even in the metaverse.

It is known that abusers try by all means to remove the woman from her environment, to control her life and her body. In the same way, the systematic application of restrictions and violence against women perpetrated by the Afghan State seeks to isolate women in order to subjugate them and reduce them to fulfilling their role of giving birth and taking care of their homes, their husbands and their families.

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In the social order imposed by the Taliban, the removal of women from public and social life can only work if the whole of society plays the role assigned to each of its components. Thus, men are also punished for not fulfilling the role assigned to them, for not following the rules, for not being real men.

For months now, we have been witnessing the constant trickle of measures imposed by the Afghan government to reduce the lives of women to rubble. The most recent, the prohibition to pursue secondary and higher education, and work in NGOs.

For now, the Taliban government allows health organizations to continue employing women. In our case, we are talking about 900 colleagues between doctors, nurses and other professionals who represent half of our staff in the country.

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The vast majority of the population in Afghanistan depends on humanitarian aid and without it would live in destitution. Dizzying unemployment has caused voracious poverty. In this context, women workers play a fundamental role in the provision of humanitarian assistance and health services and as breadwinners for their families.

To give an example, only in 2021 our Afghan colleagues attended more than 43,000 deliveries in the projects where we work. In a country where women can only be cared for by women, prohibiting them from practicing their professions would have a terrible impact on the health of half the population.

The scenario is bleak, which is why it is so important that medical humanitarian organizations speak openly about our limits and how we will navigate this situation when it fully affects us.

Continuous exposure to violence sets in motion adaptation mechanisms that can lead to accepting the unacceptable, as happens to women who are violated. We cannot allow this to happen to us as an organization.

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We may pragmatically accept some of the impositions, but we also have to be prepared to reformulate our activities in the country, even if it means reducing our services. And for this discussion, we have to put those who are directly affected by the restrictions around the table and have them tell us what we can consider tolerable and what is not.

I recently heard a phrase pronounced by a Taliban leader that stuck in my heart like a poisoned dart: “the woman, from the house to the grave.”

From Doctors Without Borders we will persist with all the means at our disposal so that between the house and the grave there are accessible health services, so that Afghan women can continue working and so that girls can look to the future with a little more hope.


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