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An ordinary day in the life of a woman under the Taliban 8

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.  

Rahila* 

February 7, 2024

9:35 a.m.

I am getting ready to go to work cleaning houses. This is the most difficult job that a young woman can do, because I don’t know some of these families. I fear going to work where I could be a victim of sexual harassment. My mother is more concerned than me but luckily, I have been safe so far. If my father was alive, he would never have allowed me to do such a thing. He loved and always took care of us. Eight years ago, my father had gone to sell my mother’s gold jewelry to raise funds to open a grocery store. On his way home, he was chased and strangled by thieves. His body was found two days later. My mother then married my 40-year-old uncle, who was single. 

10:45 a.m. 

My uncle beat my 10-year-old sister with the cable of the mobile charger. She suffered a lot. I could not go to work as I wanted to protect her from my uncle. My uncle also used to beat me before I started working. Now, I am safe because I bring home money. 

My uncle sells vegetables from a pull cart. His income is not enough to support our big family. Before the Taliban came to power, my mother did the housework in the home of a rich woman who worked in the government. Then, that woman lost her job. Now, both my mother and that woman are in the same situation. 

My sister and I work a lot, but we earn little. I earn 1,500 afghani a month while my sister gets paid in food, old clothes, and shoes. Not all the clothes and shoes are good and usable. 

11:15 a.m. 

Finally, I left the house for work. When I called the homeowner that I would be a little late, she didn’t like it, but she understood that I was busy from the tone of my voice. Today I have to do laundry and cook. I get paid for the whole day though it isn’t much work, which makes me happy. 

I am happy to leave our house and have a way to escape from the fights and bad temper of my uncle. This gives me a few hours to relax though sometimes I am sad at work, especially when my employer’s daughters give me orders as they are my age. I would like to have a laptop like them so I could continue my lessons online. It hurts that I can’t go to school. With studies, I would get a higher salary, and maybe have a laptop and study online like my employer’s daughter. But, to our bad luck, we were born poor in the time of the Taliban. 

My uncle used to tell our mother, “Don’t send your daughters to school?” My mother ignored my uncle’s words and sent us to school because she was self-sufficient. “A girl should be educated to become someone for herself,” she used to say. At that time, my uncle didn’t beat us because he was afraid of the police and the law. Now, he is happy that we live under his fist. 

3:10 p.m.

Today, my employer’s wife gave me two metres of plastic and a curtain, which made me happy as we have no glass windows in our two-room house. We need plastic for our windows. The old plastic was torn by the wind, which now enters our house. This house was given to us for free by a man who lives outside of Afghanistan. We used to pay rent of 1,500 afghani per month in our previous house. After the Taliban gained power, my uncle’s business failed and my mother also lost her job. Our situation deteriorated and we could not pay the rent and sold most of our belongings to pay for our daily expenses until we found this place. My uncle earns only 50 to 70 afghani a day. 

I will go home happy after receiving the curtain, which will help with the cold as all five siblings sleep under a blanket at night. My sister returns home an hour after me. Everyone was happier with her arrival because she brought food, bread and clothes. Every day, she buys milk for our six-month-old sister for 20 afghani and provides some other necessities.

Me and my sister are responsible for preparing the food. My mother is weak because she’s anemic. I have no hope for tomorrow. The situation is getting worse day by day. We are doomed forever!

*Rahila is a 14-year-old girl living in northern Afghanistan. She was in the eighth grade before the Taliban came to power.