Listening to women and girls displaced to urban Afghanistan


Displaced women and girls trapped in Afghanistan’s cities

Hanne Eide Andersen

Displaced Afghan females face significant constraints to accessing education, health and employment opportunities, according to a new report by NRC. 7 out of 10 say they have never attended school.

“Far more attention must be expended towards better identifying and responding to the displacement related protection needs of women and girls displaced in urban Afghanistan,” says Secretary General, Jan Egeland.

A new report launched today by NRC and The Liaison Office (TLO), an Afghan non-governmental organization, presents evidence and testimony from women and girls in urban IDP informal settlements across Afghanistan and highlights worrying conditions experienced by displaced females.

The testimony of women and girls presented in the report paint a grim picture of the dire conditions facing women and girls displaced to Afghanistan’s cities and sheds new light on the disproportionate risks they face being increasingly marginalised and isolated. Many of them find themselves kept in ‘prison-like’ seclusion, and are not permitted to venture outside their homes and unable to seek much needed assistance.

“We are imprisoned in our tents and we don’t have permission to go out. What is this sort of life worth?” says a 24 year-old woman from the Helmand province, internally displaced in Kabul and one of the respondents in the report.

Displaced women and girls across Afghanistan’s cities are also at increased risk of forced and early marriage. Representing a form of income, they are increasingly married off to older men who are able to pay bride wealth/dowry.

“We are being sold in exchange for money like animals. Our rights are ignored; we are often sold to widowers, blind men, disabled or old men and we have no choice to refuse marrying them”, says a 23 year-old woman from the Muhammad Aghai district in the Logar province, now living in a camp for internally displaced in Kabul.

“This report provides a voice for some of the most marginalised and vulnerable groups of IDPs and should act as a sober reminder of the need to go further in order to meet the needs of women and girls living in appalling conditions in Afghanistan’s cities”, says Prasant Naik, NRC Afghanistan Country Director.

Key Findings:

  • Only 40 per cent of respondents said women could gain permission to leave their dwelling in order to visit friends. This drastically reduces their access to education, health care and livelihood opportunities.

  • Displaced women and girls across Afghanistan cities are suffering unacceptable levels of hunger.

  • Displaced women and girls across Afghanistan’s cities are suffering high levels of psychological trauma and have no mental health assistance support to turn to.

  • Many female internally displaced are struggling to cope, experiencing palpable levels of despair at a lack of support during displacement and facing significant and unmet mental health needs.

  • Many urban internally displaced women and girls are experiencing high levels of psychological trauma and unable to access critically needed support.