Document Type

International Studies and Languages


This paper examines the state of women’s rights in Afghanistan, recommending economic empowerment as the most effective and culturally sensitive tool in achieving gender equality. Women’s rights in Afghanistan came to the forefront of the international community’s attention following the entry of the United States armed forces in 2001. Media outlets highlighted the Taliban’s egregious treatment of women and government agencies and international NGOs poured into the country with aims of liberating women from oppressive circumstances. While significant strides have been made since the Taliban's fall from power, in many ways, women today remain subordinate. Over a decade later, women continue to experience lower levels of education, poorer health, and less participation in politics. While education, legal rights, political participation, and physical security are important pieces of the gender equality puzzle in Afghanistan, economic empowerment should be the top priority in improving women’s rights in the long-term. Women who gain economic skills that are valuable to their household and community will eventually wield greater political influence and ability to advocate for their own rights. Approaching gender relations from an economic angle will also be less threatening than doing so using human rights discourse, which many Muslims consider at odds with Islam or an imposition of Western values.