Employment laws in Afghanistan, as in many countries, include exemptions and privileges for pregnant women and new mothers. In Afghanistan, three ministries—Women’s Affairs; Public Health and Labor; and Social Affairs, Martyrs and Disabled—have jurisdiction over these laws.

Here are the rules set out by the laws of these three ministries:

  • According to Article 31 a pregnant woman’s workweek is reduced to 35 hours.
  • Article 54 allows three months’ maternity leave with salary for pregnant women, one month before delivery and two months after delivery. In the case of a C-section or delivery of twins, fifteen additional days are added to a woman’s maternity leave.
  • Article 120 forbids hard and dangerous work for all women. For example, women cannot work as garbage collectors.
  • Article 126 provides for a kindergarten in the office area to allow women to care for their children at work. One half-hour every three hours is allowed for breastfeeding.
  • Articles 8 and 9 exclude gender as an employment criterion, and move toward egalitarianism in employment, salary, and other working benefits.

The government understands that the country will benefit from women’s participation in the economy. The Afghan government has developed many rules and polices to keep women in the workforce and in 2001 established the Ministry of Women’s Affairs.

In addition to opportunities provided by the government and law, women may take advantage of projects created by Islamic and civil organizations. These projects help women achieve higher earning potential and aim to empower women economically by creating job opportunities and providing education and training (which is often needed for jobs in urban areas).

For example, USAID has invested a tremendous amount of money in Afghanistan to directly and indirectly support women’s advancement in our economy. In 2009, USAID invested $171 million in the Afghan economy and $112 million in Afghan education, both of which indirectly affect a woman’s position in our economy.

Economic independence benefits women’s welfare, the country’s economy and, more broadly, the world economy.

A survey by the Human Rights Commission shows that most women tolerate violation of their rights only because they are financially dependent on their family. If women worked, they would become more aware of their rights and would be more respected by their families because they would contribute to household income. Financial independence would help to free women from domestic violence, and would benefit the economy.

The HRC does research and claims to solve problems, but there are gaps in the results. 

Danny Leipzig, Vice President of the World Bank, has noted: “The economic empowerment of women is not a women’s issue, it is a development issue. Under-investing in women’s economic opportunity limits economic growth and slows down progress in poverty reduction.” (Canada’s Engagement in Afghanistan). 

Despite these laws, projects, and sound arguments, the actual participation of women in our economy remains lacking. A government survey put the number of women employees in government at about 25 percent for officers and teachers, and about 11 percent for service personnel.

There are many Afghan projects, policies, and laws—including basic Islamic rules—to help pave the way for women’s participation in the economy.

Lack of women’s actual participation in our workforce, however, suggests that Afghan people are unaware of Islamic and governmental opportunities for a better life. If people understood that women’s participation in the workforce would have an outstanding effect on our economy and lifestyle, and if Afghan people knew about the laws and privileges in place for women, I believe our lives would change and Afghanistan would grow at last.

By Zainab

Works Cited:

Afghanistan Survey Calendar.kabul: Af Department of Survey, 1382.print.

Afghanistan constitution, <http://www.acsf.af/reportsHTML/wclrf2.html>.<http://moj.gov.af/fa/page/1684>.

Afghan Women Gain Economic Opportunity with a Helping Hand from Canada. Canada, 2009-05-29.

Canada’s Engagement in Afghanistan. 29 May 2009. 23 september 2012 <http://www.afghanistan.gc.ca/canada-afghanistan/focus/6-microfinance-microfinancement.aspx?lang=eng&view=d>.

MOWA. Ministry of Women’s Affairs. 23 September 2012. <http://mowa.gov.af/fa/Documents>.

USAID Afghanistan. 23 Oct 2012. 23 Sept 2012 <http://afghanistan.usaid.gov/en/about/budget>.

WCLRF. Community of Afghan Civil Society. 5 May 2011. 23 Sept 2012 <http://www.acsf.af/reportsHTML/wclrf2.html>.

Photo by Khaama Press.