Afghan broadcaster airs rare all-female panel to discuss rights on Women’s Day

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Afghan broadcaster Tolo News on Wednesday aired an all-female panel in its studio with an audience of women to mark International Women’s Day, a rare broadcast since the Taliban took over and many female journalists left the profession or started working off-air.

A survey by Reporters Without Borders last year found that more than 75 percent of female journalists had lost their jobs since the Taliban took over as foreign forces withdrew in August 2021.

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With surgical masks covering their faces, the panel of three women and one female moderator on Wednesday evening discussed the topic of the position of women in Islam.

“A woman has rights from an Islamic point of view ... it is her right to be able to work, to be educated,” said journalist Asma Khogyani during the panel.

The Taliban last year restricted most girls from high school, women from university and stopped most Afghan female NGO workers.

Another panelist, former university professor Zakira Nabil said women would continue to find ways to learn and work.

“Whether you want it or not, women exist in this society ... if it’s not possible to get an education at school, she will learn knowledge at home,” she told the panel.

Due to growing restrictions as well as the country’s severe economic crisis, the International Labour Organization said female employment had fallen 25 percent last year since mid-2021. It added that more women were turning to self-employed work such as tailoring at home.

The United Nation’s Mission to Afghanistan (UNAMA) on Wednesday called on the Taliban to reverse restrictions on the rights of girls and women, calling them “distressing.”

The Taliban have said they respect women’s rights in accordance with their interpretation of Islamic law and Afghan culture and that authorities have set up a committee to examine perceived issues in order to work towards re-opening girls’ schools.

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