Over the last few weeks, the world has seen devastating images of Afghan people fleeing the country as the Taliban regains control. Many fear the extremist militant group will reimpose the harsh laws that they relied on when they ran Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001.
This raises serious concerns about the ongoing future of women and girls’ rights and safety in the country. It could mean a return to them being denied an education, a career, certain medical services, and the freedom to not wear a full burqa. There’s also the huge threat of violence and abuse.
In a recent press conference, the Taliban said it would “respect women’s rights” but he remained vague on what that will involve. People remain sceptical over his media-friendly words.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced last week that the UK will rehouse around 20,000 Afghan refugees over the next few years, including 5,000 over the next 12 months. The resettlement programme will focus on women, children, Afghan interpreters and other minorities in greatest danger from the potential return to a brutal regime under Taliban leadership.
But Afghan women desperately need help now.
Here at the Maya Centre, we stand in solidarity with women across the world who suffer human rights abuses, oppression and violence simply for being themselves. We believe in a woman’s freedom and dignity to pursue her own life goals without discrimination or fear – and yet our services work with some of the most severe trauma, including the damaging effects of persecution and state violence on women who have fled their home country in fear of their lives to seek a safe haven in the UK. Women affected in this way don’t just lose their families, homes, security – they also risk losing their sense of physical safety, bodily integrity, their belief in humanity and their hope for the future.
We are lucky, alongside other specialist services in the UK, to be funded by visionary grant-makers who understand what it means to flee persecution and how we can safely reach out to a women in her own language and offer her a route to stability and recovery. But that’s just for the women who make it here alive. Faced with the overwhelming news stories from Afghanistan, it’s easy to feel helpless, but there are some incredible organisations working on the ground to ensure that women and girls are getting the help they desperately need.
Here are eight other organisations and services that you can help support today:
MADRE is an international women’s human rights organisation and feminist fund partnering with community-based women’s groups worldwide facing war and disaster. It is securing channels for getting money to where it is needed at the most local level in Afghanistan, and supporting a route of safehouses for women who can’t escape the country but need emergency relocation.
Choose Love is providing vital aid and services to Afghan people who have fled the country, such as clothing, shelter and support for children. It is also supporting projects and groups protecting women’s and children’s rights.
Support Girls in Afghanistan (Razia’s Ray of Hope Foundation)
Razia’s Ray of Hope Foundation has been educating girls in Afghanistan since 2008. Donations will be used to operate expenses for its schools, including expanded enrolment for new students whose families have been displaced to our region, and funding staff, students and their families.
Women for Women International
Donations made to Women for Women International will help to find practical, safe, solutions so that it can continue to operate and make a positive difference for the people of Afghanistan.
The charity is also calling on people to support its open letter to Boris Johnson to immediately assist Afghan women leaders, activists and negotiators who are now at imminent risk.
Emergency Funds for Afghan Artists
Among many of the vulnerable groups are artists, who have no place in a Taliban-controlled Afghanistan. Donations made to Emergency Funds for Afghan Artists will go towards preparing documentation for leaving, cost of food, cost of travel, and basic subsistence.
The Afghan Women’s Support Forum
The Afghan Women’s Support Forum is an independent alliance of individuals who are committed to helping Afghan women enjoy the health and freedoms that will enable them to reach their potential.
Help refugees who have come to the UK
You can use the government’e website to offer help to refugees in your local area. You’ll be asked what help you can offer, such as housing, fostering and donations of goods such as clothes and toys.
Haringey Welcome is a campaign group of local volunteers, working for fairness, dignity and respect for migrants and refugees in the London borough of Haringey.
Image: Ehimetalor Akhere Unuabona via Unsplash