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The Price of Womanhood

by Alice Xu

“As a girl, I remember my mother wearing miniskirts and taking us to the cinema. My aunt went to university in Kabul.” – Horia Mosadiq

On March 8th, 2002, upon the dissolution of the Taliban’s regime in Afghanistan, women in Afghanistan freely celebrated International Women’s Day. Twenty years later, in 2021, the Taliban returned to power. Over the next two years, the Taliban systematically decimated the rights of women in every regard: their freedom of movement, access to education, work, healthcare, and justice. On International Women’s Day in 2023, the United Nations (UN) announced that the “situation of women and girls’ rights in Afghanistan has reverted to that of the pre-2002 era,” thereby eroding the 20 years of progress made in the brief lapse from Taliban rule. These current restrictions on women’s rights have suffocated communities, leaving them “invisible and isolated.” This is the price of womanhood in Afghanistan.

The Taliban—officially the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan—are an Islamic fundamentalist faction that emerged in Afghanistan in the early 1990s after years of conflict and civil unrest. The group ruled from 1996 until US-led intervention forced them to convene in Pakistan in 2001. After the intervention, Afghan society moved towards gender equality, notably with women’s rights enshrined in the revised constitution in 2003, and the adoption of the Elimination of Violence Against Women law in 2009. In 2018, nearly 40% of Afghan girls were enrolled in school compared to just 6% in 2003. However, such progress was inconsequential, as in 2011, the BBC named Afghanistan the most dangerous country for women.

Every day, it becomes more dangerous to live as a woman in Afghanistan. Not only are women restricted from traveling far without a male companion, they are also banned from many public places such as baths, restaurants, and parks. In comparison to places like Canada, women do not have access to basic healthcare. Just last month, the Taliban banned beauty salons, ending a collection of safe havens where women were once able to socialize and generate income. Weeks later, in pursuit of eradicating women from academia, the Taliban banned girls over the age of 10 from attending school. This begs the question: What will they ban for women in the future? When will women stop paying a price for their existence?


Alice Xu is a writer and high school junior from Toronto and New Mexico. Outside of school, she dedicates her time to volunteering with political organisations, working on projects dedicated to tackling racism in the Greater Toronto Area, and advocating for mental health and social justice in her local community.

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