Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Tuesday, March 20th, 2018

Afghan Women Economic Empowerment: Identifying Main Barriers

Women empowerment is one of the most important socio-economic issues in Afghanistan; it is the development of mental and physical capacity, power, and skills in women for them to operate meaningfully in their social and economic roles. In order to experience more favorable level of social and economic recognition and subsequently enhance their socio-economic status in the society, it is necessary to establish and improve their socio-economic infrastructures. Some scholars hold that as a result of women’s wide ranging responsibilities; productive, domestic and community duties, they are generally involved in a wider range of roles and functions than men and will need a broader range of technical know-how on which to ensure their sustainable livelihood in the society.
Unfortunately, studies conducted in Afghanistan and other developing countries show that women are strongly affected by poverty, prone to diseases, susceptible to discrimination, marginalization and environmental degradation. And all of them play a detrimental role against women economic empowerment and poverty reduction in these countries.  It is clear cut that in any traditional society including Afghanistan, the presence of gender related constraints continue to prevent women to enjoy their rights, and full participation of them in socio-economic activities.  Research evidence show that Afghanistan is a highly, traditional society where men dominate almost all spheres of life; and women are kept and a subordinate position particularly at community and household levels. The women studies in Asian and Africa found out that even where national policies encourage equal opportunities, women still generally lag behind in educational attainment, earning capacity and other respects. Women share in the labor force is very low in Afghanistan, implying that the number of females who could work and are not working is very high than that of men. In general, women face more significant barriers than men in struggling with their livelihood: lower pay, lack of access to adequate education, training, leadership and management opportunities and exclusion from policy making process that can affect them positively if they have a say in the policies. Social scholars attribute these trends to cultural practices, higher illiteracy rate among the female sex and gender discrimination in both employment practices and income generation activities in Afghanistan. Assessments of the  extent of economic empowerment of the Afghan women based on evidence of their participation in various economic activities show that economic powers of the Afghan women have systematically and persistently deteriorated since 2014 too.
As a result, only few women would inherit the economic empowerment conferred on them, unless there is a general empowerment of all women in Afghanistan. Also, women studies show that even domestic empowerment in Afghanistan is too low because evidence have shown that resources that are of great importance in the life of women for the purpose of addressing their domestic and matrimonial commitments are not enough and not available in most cases. In other words, domestic facilities are not within the reach of average Afghans and these problems are subjecting women and children, especially the girls, to different hardships.
The goal of women economic empowerment is to improve the socio-economic status of women through creating and enriching an economic culture that to address the technical know-how in the pursuit of women’s multi-faceted roles, retooling them with different economic instruments as well as enhancing the of women form poverty and economic dependencies which is the main factor of their other dependencies to the males.
The reason is that women are “generally poor” and form half or even more than half of the population of Afghanistan; therefore, targeting them will be a fundamental pre-requisite foe any poverty reduction strategy to be effective here.
There have been many initiatives to improve women economic status during the four decades including Nations United Nations conferences on women at Beijing in 1975, 1985, 1995 and international decade on women where laws have been passed for the improvement of women’s condition. Also, there have been many changes in the laws and public policies of Afghanistan in terms of women empowerment in clouding elimination of all forms of discrimination against women, the National Action Plan for Women of Afghanistan, etc.
Also Afghanistan has taken strategic initiatives based on MDGs that considered women’s conditions and included gender equality and women empowerment as part of its objectives. In Afghanistan, a lot of programs have been implemented to improve the lives of women. Different initiatives have been taken    with a view to reducing the level of poverty and improving welfare of the masses who are mostly women, yet the condition of Afghan women leaves much to be desired.
As there have been many measures taken in Afghanistan to empower women, it is necessary for the government and the international community to identify factors that inhibit the Afghan women from gaining economic empowerment and poverty reduction. Thus, they shall take the necessary measures to address them in practice in order to realize women economic empowerment it the country.