Women, Peace and Security Policy Analyst – Home based with possible travel to Kabul and provinces

Full Time
Posted 2 years ago

The Taliban takeover of Kabul on 15 August 2021 has had a seismic impact on Afghanistan. With the ascent of the Taliban, the future of women from all walks of life who have shaped the fabric of the country over the past 20 years, is unknown. The conflict dynamics in the country are multi-layered, and Afghanistan’s people are facing the devastating effects of a protracted conflict, increasing poverty and natural disasters, all of which are amplified by the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. As the Taliban’s military offensive progressed throughout August, thousands of people fled to Kabul and other urban areas, seeking safety from the conflict and other threats. There are some 5.5 million internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Afghanistan, and approximately 80 percent of nearly a quarter of a million Afghans forced to flee since the end of May are women and children.[1] 2021 has to date been one of the deadliest years for Afghan women and girls, with more women and more children killed and injured than ever before recorded by the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) for the first half of any calendar year.[2] More than 18 million people – fully half of the country’s population – are in need of humanitarian assistance, and almost a third of the country is facing emergency levels of food insecurity compounded by severe drought.[3]

Despite gains on women’s rights achieved over the past 20 years, Afghan women continue to struggle to avail themselves of their rights and to consolidate and advance their progress. In 2019, Afghanistan ranked 166 out of 167 countries on the Gender Development Index, an index designed to measure gender equality in three basic dimensions of human development: health, education and command over economic resources.[4] Women and girls face barriers to their participation and decision-making in the public, economic, social and political sphere. These include deeply entrenched patriarchal socio-cultural and traditional norms regarding the role of women; women’s lack of awareness of their rights, linked to low levels of literacy; a lack of access to education and economic opportunities; and harmful traditional practices such as honour killings, underage and forced marriages, and discrimination in public and private sector services delivery.

What progress has been achieved on the advancement of gender equality in Afghanistan in the past decades is now at risk of being erased – and at worst regressed. The Taliban have not yet articulated their vision for women’s rights and protection, stating only that “women’s rights will be protected under Islamic principles”. The Taliban military offensive has been marked by unlawful restrictions on the human rights of women and girls.[5] There have been reports that Afghan women and girls are already seeing restrictions on their access to health and education, freedom of movement, and freedom of expression. In a statement issued on 16 August 2021, just before the fall of Ashraf Ghani’s government, UN human rights experts warned that reports from almost half of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces show that the majority of women are experiencing the same rights violations as 20 years ago under the control of the Taliban.[6]

Many women human rights defenders and public officials who have been targeted or threatened by the Taliban now fear for their lives, and many are trying to get emergency visas and flights out of the country, though currently unable to due to closure of the airport.[7] The deterioration of security is adversely impacting the ability of women and girls to access life-saving services and realize their rights. The Taliban as de-facto authorities are using their armed fighters to maintain “law and order” in the country, but the corresponding frameworks and lines of command are unclear. Amidst the resulting security vacuum, there is a heightened risk of increased activity of other armed groups, such as the Islamic State Khorasan Province (IS-K) in the country.


[1] IOM appeal for Afghanistan, 26 August 2021 (https://www.iom.int/news/usd-24-million-urgently-needed-acute-humanitarian-needs-afghanistan); UNHCR, 13 August 2021 (https://www.unhcr.org/news/briefing/2021/8/611617c55/unhcr-warns-afghanistans-conflict-taking-heaviest-toll-displaced-women.html) and OCHA, Internal Displacement in Kabul, 15 August 2021: https://reliefweb.int/sites/reliefweb.int/files/resources/flash_update_4_-_internal_displacement_-_kabul_15_aug_2021.pdf

[2] UNAMA: Afghanistan. Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict Midyear Update: 1 January to 30 June 2021 (https://unama.unmissions.org/sites/default/files/unama_poc_midyear_report_2021_26_july.pdf)

[3] OCHA, June 2021 (https://www.unocha.org/story/daily-noon-briefing-highlights-afghanistan-3)

[4] Gender Development Index (GDI), United Nations Development Programme (http://hdr.undp.org/sites/default/files/Country-Profiles/AFG.pdf)

[5] Statement from the High Commission for Human Right, 10 August 2021: https://news.un.org/en/story/2021/08/1097482

[6] https://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=27384&LangID=E

[7] Informal Experts’ Group Meeting on Afghanistan to the UN Security Council, Thursday 19th August 2021.

The current security vacuum and instability in the country exacerbate pre-existing patterns of discrimination against women and girls, exposing them to heightened risks of violations of their human rights. Looking at the Taliban’s actions on the ground, two aspects are clear: (i) Oppressive gender roles are central to their governance vision and its implementation; and (ii) there is a direct link between the Taliban assuming control of a district and the imposition of rules that negatively impact the rights of women and girls and severely limit their access to protection, health, and education services.

Objective of the Assignment: In the context of a rapidly changing Afghanistan, there is a need to produce rapid gender analysis to leverage and optimize policy windows, as well guide UN Women’s engagement framework and operational priorities strategic framework and when they emerge, with the aim of ensuring that the international community does not compromise on or subordinate women’s rights to other agendas. Given the volatility of the context, a retainer expert is needed to support UN Women Afghanistan in producing analysis and reports to build evidence and understanding around the gender equality dynamics of the current crisis.

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