Leadership Council for Human Rights

~ Feet in the mud, head in the sky ~

Friday, February 01, 2008

Large numbers of Afghan women widowed and impoverished

Out of the 26.6 million people living in Afghanistan, over 1.5 million are widows, Integrated Regional Information Networks reported Wednesday.

After over more than two decades of armed conflicts, “Afghanistan has one of the highest numbers of widows (proportionate to the total population) in the world,” the article notes. In Kabul alone there are between 50,000 and 70,000 widows.

“The average age of an Afghan widow is just 35 years, and 94 percent of them are unable to read and write,” said Deborah Zalesne, a board member of the Beyond 9/11 and a law professor at the City University of New York. She added: About 90 percent of Afghan widows have children, and the average widow has more than four.”

With such large families and lack of educational opportunities, Afghan widow often find themselves in dire financial straights. “To survive many Afghan widows weave carpets, do tailoring, beg or even engage in prostitution,” according to the article. In rural areas, where employment opportunities are in short supply, circumstances are even worse.

Afghan widows also suffer psychologically. According to the article: “Widowed women are also at greater risk of emotional problems and impaired psychosocial functioning than either married women or men, typically because of social exclusion, forced marriages, gender-based violence and lack of economic and educational opportunities.”

Afghan widows, and Afghan women in general, are not well represented in government institutions and women’s rights activists have criticized the Afghan government and international donors for not doing enough to help ease their burden. However the interim-Afghanistan National Development Strategy (i-ANDS) has set a goal for 2010 to, according to the article, “reduce poverty among women by at least 20 percent and ensure that women make up at least 20 percent of all public bodies.”

For the full article, click here.


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