Hear from Afghan women human rights defenders outside Afghanistan
A policy brief and report based on interviews with Afghan women
In August 2021, many Afghan women’s rights activists (WRAs) and women human rights defenders (WHRDs) fled Afghanistan out of fear for their safety and security under the new regime. Nearly a year later, Women for Women International and the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) share a report and policy brief outlining key findings and recommendations based on research and outreach to Afghan WRAs/WHRDs that have continued their advocacy for women in Afghanistan – from all over the world. Their insights help us understand how we can support them in overcoming their personal and professional challenges as refugees and asylum seekers, as well as how to take advantage of the opportunities to support their work and leadership of the Afghan women’s rights movement.
As a human being I have to understand where I am going, and I have to be able to choose where I am.
Afghan Women's Rights Activist and Human Rights Defender, based in United Arab Emirates
We mapped 1,160 Afghan women human rights defenders (WHRDs) who are currently based in five geographic regions around the world and conducted follow-up focus group discussions (FGDs) and interviews with 53 of the women. The findings from our research contributes to filling the current information gap around Afghan women’s rights activists (WRAs) and WHRDs’ immediate, medium, and long-term needs in the transit and host countries where they reside, their areas of expertise and experience, and their ideas, capacities and opportunities on how to sustain the Afghan women’s movement jointly, despite being apart geographically.
Based on the experiences and perspectives shared by Afghan WRAs and WHRDs in the course of our research, we present evidence-based recommendations which pave the way for donors, policymakers, and partners to support the Afghan women’s rights movement through diplomatic efforts and future programming and projects to sustain Afghan women’s rights movements inside and outside Afghanistan.
READ THE POLICY BRIEF AND MAPPING REPORT TO LEARN MORE ABOUT THE EXPERIENCES OF AFGHAN WOMEN HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDERS AND KEY RECOMMENDATIONS FOR THE INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY
Key personal and professional challenges
Resettlement: Immigration Status and Documentation/Identification
- Lack of transparent immigrant and resettlement processes
Restrictions and lack of clarity around policies for refugee and asylum seeker advocacy and activism
Discrimination in policy and attitudes
Professional uncertainty in host countries
"Assisting governments and institutions must first help determine the fate of those in the camps and facilitate their cooperation with those trapped in Afghanistan, and secondly, rescue those trapped in Afghanistan."
- Cybersecurity including concerns around tracking of online activity and access to secure internet
Regressive policies and restrictions on operations within Afghanistan
"Not only are their [women’s rights activists] life [sic] at extreme risk but their family members’ life is also at risk, so they are silent, and they really don’t want to raise their voices because there is no support for them both nationally and internationally.”
Financial Challenges and Unemployment
- Economic integration in host countries
Increasing living cost and daily necessities (after Ukraine war) without any changes in financial status of WRA’s and WHRD’s
Financial barrier such as restricted access to bank, withdrawal, and money transfers
"As a refugee in India, having no financial support from no one has put me under severe emotional pressure, and economically I am not stable, most of the time I am thinking [sic] how to protect and support myself to pay rent, purchase food and other utilities cost."
Mental Health and Psychosocial Support
Afghan WRAs and WHRDs need greater access to mental health and psychosocial support and services, but they also emphasized that addressing the other personal and professional challenges and needs listed above are also critical to improving their mental health and wellbeing.
"For me, the basic need right now is the emotional and mental peace and stability. I am a young woman who lives alone in this camp and is away from family. My family was torn, and we turned into refugees in other countries. I was left alone and ended up somewhere that I never imagined to be for such a long time, without my family. Therefore, emotional, and mental peace is my first need."
What do Afghan Women's Rights Activists and Women Human Rights Defenders want from the international community?
The international community has a role and a responsibility to Afghan women residing inside and outside Afghanistan. Over the past year, the international community has under-delivered on their promises and responsibilities. Urgent, coordinated action should be taken to ensure that the resettlement challenges, financial needs, security concerns, and mental health and psychosocial support identified by Afghan WRAs and WHRDs in transit or in host countries are addressed based on recommendations set forth in the policy brief.
The personal and professional challenges facing Afghan WRAs and WHRDs and identified through our research are intimately related. Therefore, to sustain the Afghan women’s rights movement and Afghan WRAs and WHRDs professional capacities, the international community must also address the mental health challenges and personal capacity of Afghan WRAs and WHRDs outside of Afghanistan.
To sustain the Afghan women’s rights movement and support the achievement of the movement’s objectives, decision-makers must actively seek and act upon input and leadership from Afghan women, WRAs, and WHRDs within and outside of Afghanistan. By addressing the personal and professional challenges facing Afghan WRAs and WHRDs with policy action and resources, the international community can remove barriers to their leadership and support them in sustaining the movement for their own rights.
Read the policy brief and mapping report to learn more about the experiences of Afghan Women Human RIghts Defenders and key recommendations for the international community
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