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An ordinary day in the life of a woman under the Taliban 6

The lives of many women have been wrecked during the two-and-a-half years of Taliban rule. Our journalists asked eight women to recount their activities on a typical day living under Taliban gender apartheid in Afghanistan.  

Shukuria 

February 1, 2024 

7:30 a.m.  

I am preparing breakfast for my children so they can eat quickly, and I can go to work. I need to see how much laundry I can find. This is not fighting for life; it is for survival. I struggle and fight for survival. My biggest mission these days is to find 100 afghani daily to buy a few loaves of bread. There is a bakery that sells me half-price stale bread, which is the kind I bring home most often. 

9:42 a.m. 

I just arrived at work. A woman called and said she is having a party next week and needs her carpets washed. After walking for almost an hour, I arrived at her house. She tells me to burn her old boots as fuel to boil water and wash the carpets and dirty clothes. I agreed, and now I am sitting by the fire and in the smoke, waiting for the water to heat up. My life has become like this black smoke. There is no hope in it. They torment me and destroy me in any way they can. I don’t even cry anymore. There is no choice. I have given in to the hardships of life. After all, providing medicine for my husband and food for my children depends on my daily chores in people’s homes. 

2:53 p.m. 

I had a lot of work. It was noon when Ms. Razia, the house owner, called out. She said first to prepare her lunch, set the table, and then wash the carpets. At 2:30 p.m., the rug and laundry were done, and then I cleaned the bathrooms and toilets. I am exhausted, and now I have taken a minute to rest before going back to cook dinner for Mrs. Razia and then go home. She only pays me 100 afghani for doing all this work, which I am happy to receive.  

The important thing is that I know we will have bread to eat at night. My children like loaves of bread. When I wasn’t doing these jobs, I couldn’t even find enough cooked rice for my children to eat. Thank goodness for this job. 

[5:11 PM] 

When I got home, my son Yahya happily told his sister Marwa, “Here, my mother bought bread from the bakery; we will eat it with sweet tea in the morning.” My heart ached for my children’s happiness. Before the Taliban took over, I worked in an NGO and earned 14,000 afghani a month. I used to prepare breakfast with milk, cream, and eggs for my children. They ate well. Now, I am in this situation. Now, I feel very uncomfortable working in people’s homes. I feel like a worthless person. The Taliban do not recognize us women as human beings. They have stopped us from working. Now, we are hopeful for our children. My husband is paralyzed. He was a member of the national army, and the Taliban wounded him. As a mother, I have a world of pain in my heart now that my children are hungry and can barely afford to eat loaves of plain bread. 

*Names have been changed to protect the identity of the interviewee. Shukuria is the pseudonym for a 41-year-old woman who has a degree in Persian literature and who worked for a private non-governmental organization before the Taliban returned to power.