Ministry Officials Say “Women a Source of Distraction”

burqa shop in blue and white

Recently I was given the responsibility of doing monitoring and evaluation in a capacity building project with one of the Afghan government ministries. 

In the course of collecting data I had to meet with officials at this ministry, where I found very few women working in any of the key management positions.

Discovering this, I decided to interview some male ministry officials to find out why there were practically no women managers. Some of their answers satisfied me. For example this one:

— There is a shortage of qualified women with the right experience and education for the position.

But here are some of the other answers I got:

— Women can’t manage a big unit.

— Presence of women in office is a source of distraction.

— Women are simply not good in leadership.

— Once I provide the opportunity for women to manage the team, our work will be left far behind. 

And finally this is the worst one:

— I am strictly against women’s education and employment. This is the reason last year I suggested a new regulation to restrict scholarship and overseas studies for women. They return to corrupt our traditions and beliefs because they become westernized.

This man added that: Although my first request was rejected, I will keep trying in order to avoid diminishing my cultural value and I am proud of my efforts.

For me, such people are a disaster. They are the reason we are left far behind.

Women are not a source of distraction. It is these men’s eyes that have a problem in screening what distracts them. It is their own frantic thoughts that are prohibiting women from achieving our rights.

What is the solution?

In my experience I can confidently say that women can be top-quality professional leaders, managers, business owners, politicians, and perfectly good leaders of the household for a family.

Let’s think critically and realize that limiting women from education and employment is not the solution; in fact it is worsening Afghanistan’s economic situation.

Being an Islamic country doesn’t mean restricting women from their rights and humiliating them in the workplace by refusing them good jobs.

Trust women to enrich the workplace. Be courageous. Help women strengthen their self-esteem by standing alongside them, instead of against them.

By Anonymous

Photo By Coco McCabe.


  1. liz titus says:

    Whew, this is shocking! Or maybe not. The situation in Afghanistan is horrible for women, as the writer clearly demonstrates. Yet, even in the U.S. this kind of workplace discrimination exists. The problem is global, and the work the writer is doing is vital for Afghanistan’s future!

  2. Thanks for writing the facts dear sister.

    I am not very surprised at all!

    This is Afghanistan and it is a shame that with presence of international community amost 52 countries plus democracy men try to stop educated women in Afghanistan not to work, Such poeple who are against women are blind and their eyes are covered with ignorant burqa. they put burqa over women but they themselves has burqas in their eyes cant see and can not accept the reallity about Afghanistan women.
    Shame on such thoughts! Let’s work to remove them from our society. Let’s write about them together.


  3. liz titus says:

    Wow, is all I can say!

    Thank you for telling the truth, as you always do.


  4. Pat Collins says:

    It has nothing to do with becoming ‘westernised’ It is about the right to be free. You are already free, it is the obstacles in your way that thwart you, but you will be a success, you will walk one day uncovered if you wish and those obstacles will fade back into the dust of time where they belong.

  5. “For me, such people are a disaster” – Dear Writer: I laughed at that line–to keep from crying! Brava to you for taking the leadership role that you did by actually interviewing these men, and getting their thoughts on paper. We have a saying here: sunlight is the best disinfectant. You have to tell these stories. You have to hold up these harmful ideas to the light. When you do so, you allow others to really see and think about these corrosive, toxic prejudices.
    I am 38 years old. I am an American. For most of my working life, I’ve avoided bigotry in the workplace. But let me promise you, there are plenty of men in America who still think like this! Only now, they are shamed, or they fear lawsuits–this is what keeps them quiet(er). But if you look at my mother’s generation, they had to deal with terrible attitudes in the workplace, with few legal protections. Go back another generation and it is a true disaster! So keep writing, keep speaking out, keep talking with your peers, and you keep planting the seeds of equality. You will be a force for positive change. All best, to you, Stacy

  6. Elisabeth says:

    One hundred years ago, the United States had the same attitude towards women. It was the from their strength and perseverance that women made progress in the US. We stand behind you and support you, Afghan sisters.


  7. Alexandra says:

    Thank you for a fine essay!
    I want to add to the discussion by pointing out that sexism is a big problem in the United States too. The only solution is to keep working for empowerment. Empower yourself and empower other women. Men do not give up their power willingly. Women must take power into their own hands.
    Good luck and keep working!

  8. Göttin says:

    Hi Dear People,
    It is the same in Germany only hidden!

    It Starts already in the school, girls which are good in school are called hard working, boys are called gifted! I think this missinterpretation needs an urgend correction! And this can only Happen truh us!!
    Cause its only us, who give birth to the future, its us who raises kids, educates children!

    Martin Luther King “All that needs to happen for evil to prevail is that good men do nothing.”

    Too long my sisters we Ambition the wrong Ideals!
    Its only too us what is possible or not!

    So keep hardworking And insist on Ur rights!

  9. Dear Anonymous,
    I agree completely — these people and this way of thinking are disastrous. It’s important for readers to hear specifically what these men said because it makes a big issue feel more personal. Thank you for doing this work of investigating and reporting on this issue.

  10. this is unfortunately not a shock. what is heartening is that you are in a position to examine the situation and to write about it, even if anonymously. that this subject is being brought up –ie: women’s role as managers in the workplace–is in itself a sign of progress in public awareness.

  11. Ashtyn says:

    If the men can’t help but be distracted by the women then maybe they should fire all the men and hire women since men are the ones that have the problem.

  12. Sadly true. Hope the wrong ideas about women, change from people’s mind soon. Thanks for sharing.

  13. Sophie says:

    Dear Writer,

    I love your writing style. Clear and informative, maintaining passion without becoming overly emotive. I particularly liked the line ;”It is these men’s eyes that have a problem in screening what distracts them.” It made me think of little burqa sunglasses being applied to men who find women distracting :) Your work saddened me too, and reminded me that Afghanistan has more women in parliament than Australia does at the moment. Many of the same reasons as you cite have been given with the main one being almost word for word “There is a shortage of qualified women with the right experience and education for the position.” There are reasons of course, for that, as well, and that is where much of the problem lies here. Thanks for sharing!

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