Over the past 20 years, women have played a crucial role in building a new Afghanistan. They were members of the judiciary, public servants and artists who believed there were no limits to what they could achieve.
Many say that everything changed when the Taliban returned to power last August.
For most teenage girls in Afghanistan, it has been a year since they set foot in a classroom. And there is no sign of when or if they will be allowed back.
“My goal was to become Afghanistan’s president one day, or vice president,” one woman told Euronews international correspondent Anelise Borges.
Save the Children interviewed almost 1,700 boys and girls between the ages of 9 and 17 in seven provinces to assess the impact of the education restrictions.
The survey, carried out in May and June, found that more than 45 percent of girls do not attend school, compared to 20 percent of boys. It also found that 26 percent of girls show signs of depression, compared to 16 percent of boys.
Almost the entire population of Afghanistan was plunged into poverty and millions were unable to feed their families when the world cut off funding in response to the Taliban’s rise to power.
Teachers, parents and experts are all warning that the country’s multiple crises are proving particularly damaging to girls. The Taliban have restricted women’s work, encouraged them to stay at home and issued dress codes.
Hundreds of female members of the Afghan judiciary say they are now being targeted. They are being hunted by those they once helped convict – many were members of the Taliban and have now been freed by the group.
“It was my duty,” a woman who worked in the industry told Borges.
“According to Afghanistan law, they are criminals, according to Afghanistan law, I am processing their cases. But today the government fell and there is nothing left. And we are the accused, and we are facing trials.
“I sold part of my household goods and donated the other part. And now I am moving from one place to another, I am even going to my relatives’ houses, but they are not happy to host me. Not even my dear friends, they don’t like it because I’m under treatment. They don’t want their families to get into trouble because of me.”
The international community is demanding that the Taliban open schools for all girls, and the US and EU have drawn up plans to pay salaries directly to Afghanistan’s teachers, keeping the sector running without channeling the funds through the Taliban.
During the first time they ruled Afghanistan in the 1990s, women had virtually no rights – they could not work or study, or leave the house without a male relative.
The Taliban assured Afghans when they regained control last year that they would not return to the heavy hand of the past.
In March, just before the start of the school year, the Taliban’s Ministry of Education announced that everyone would be reinstated. But on the day of the reopening, March 23, the decision was suddenly reversed.
Many women in Afghanistan now fear that those days of the 1990s may return.