Afghan women and girls have made substantial gains over the past nearly two decades—especially in access to health care and education, and greater presence in public life. Yet Afghanistan remains one of the most challenging places in the world to be a woman—with high maternal mortality ratios, endemic gender-based violence, and still-limited access to education and health care.
U.S. efforts since 2002 to support women, girls, and gender equality in Afghanistan have yielded mixed results. There is broad demand among Afghans for health and education services, and U.S. agencies have responded with well-designed and effective programs. Yet SIGAR’s examination of 24 U.S. gender-related programs also revealed shortcomings. Some programs were designed based on assumptions that proved to be ill-suited to the Afghan context and the challenges that women and girls faced.
This report, the ninth Lessons Learned Program report to be issued by SIGAR, seeks to answer how the United States can best continue to support Afghan women and girls, preserving and expanding on the gains they have made. Woven throughout the report are “Afghan Voices” - insights from a body of 65 interviews conducted with Afghans in 2020, commissioned by SIGAR. Many interviewees voiced praise for U.S. efforts to expand gender equality, but they also cited insecurity, restrictive social norms, and harassment as key constraints to women’s mobility and work.