Afghanistan Analysts Network – English

Economy, Development, Environment

Covid-19 in Afghanistan (7): The effects of the pandemic on the private lives and safety of women at home

Khadija Hossaini 21 min

Covid-19 has had an alarming effect on Afghanistan, exacerbating poverty and reducing access to health care, in addition to the deaths and illness. The pandemic has also had specific consequences for women, particularly during lockdown, including increased levels of domestic violence and reduced access to schools and medical care. AAN’s Khadija Hossaini discovered that women also keenly felt the loss of their already limited private space, amid an increase in their unpaid workload at home, both of which have had severe ramifications for their mental health. With some fearing an increase of Covid-19 infections through the winter months, many women are bracing for a return of these problems. The report is based on interviews with women in Kabul, Bamyan, Daikundi and Balkh province. 

Afghan girl students in Herat cover their faces with scarfs as they walk inside the compound of their school after it was reopened. The school was closed due to the Covid-19 pandemic for most of the year. Photo: HOSHANG HASHIMI/AFP

This is the second report in a series on how Covid-19 impacts women in Afghanistan. For the first report on women living with coronavirus in and around Herat city see here.

This research initially aimed to look into the lives of women in and around Kabul province, and their experience of Covid-19 but was later expanded to include women in three additional provinces. The primary data in this report comes from fifteen in-depth interviews in June, July and early August 2020. The women selected for interview have diverse economic backgrounds, marital status and employment status. (1) An additional five interviews were conducted with two directors of women’s shelters in Kabul city, an education specialist, a gender expert and a psychotherapist based in Kabul. The interview questions covered the experience of the women with Covid-19, its effects on their plans, activities and jobs, whether they had to take care of a family member who caught the virus, whether family relations had changed since the occurrence of the pandemic and whether there had been any instances of arguments or violence at home. The research also covered the issue of mental health and whether the women thought things might go back to how they were before Covid-19.

Covid-19 and increased domestic violence 

Across the world there were reports of increased levels of domestic violence against women and girls during the pandemic. According to a report by UN Women, there was an increase of more than 25 per cent in reports of violence against women in many countries. The report warns that these numbers, which only relate to instances that have been reported, may only capture the most extreme cases, as the lockdown has made it difficult for women to seek help. 

Afghanistan seems to have been no exception, as is for instance discussed in this Oxfam report from April 2020: “A New Scourge to Afghan Women: COVID-19.” The report notes that Covid-19 has affected women’s rights in Afghanistan, with social norms impeding women’s access to health care, an increase in domestic violence and increased economic inequality. 

Since under-reporting of domestic violence cases in Afghanistan is inevitable, with most offices that support women facing violence closed during the lockdown, it is difficult to get a clear picture of the scale of the increase in violence against women and girls. However, both the Ministry of Women’s Affairs and the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) reported a rise in violence against women and girls during the lockdown, which started in late March. (The lockdown has not been officially lifted, but it unofficially ended in July/August, around Eid-ul Adha, or a few weeks after, depending on individual local measures.) A report in May by the Global protection cluster, a network of non-governmental organisations, specifically mentioned the “early indication of increased gender-based violence” in Afghanistan, saying: 

[Gender-based violence in Afghanistan], already rife, is being exacerbated by measures to control the spread of the virus. In particular, the stress experienced by male heads of household losing employment opportunities and livelihoods, becoming (increasingly) violent at home with wives and children.

The Ministry of Women’s Affairs, the Attorney General Office’s Elimination of Violence Against Women (EVAW) department and the AIHRC, in a joint news conference held on 20 July this year, said that the overall reporting of violence against women and girls had decreased during this year, while extreme cases of violence against women such as killing, suicide, extreme physical abuse and stoning punishments by informal courts had increased. In the first four months of this [Afghan] year, which was also during the peak of Covid-19 in Afghanistan and the most stringent period of lockdown in most provinces, 127 cases of extreme violence were recorded. This include 121 cases of rape, 80 cases of death due to excessive physical abuse and injuries, 20 cases of suicide and 548 cases of severe physical violence. These numbers show a 56 per cent increase compared to last year’s record of 72 instances of extreme violence against women. 

According to AAN interviews with two directors of women’s shelters in Kabul, the number of cases of women seeking refuge from violence has more than doubled. Shima Yarzada, Co-Director at the Afghan Women Skills Development Centre’s shelter, told AAN that the usual number of new admissions per month was between six and eight cases, but that this had increased to 15 to 18 entries per month in their Kabul shelter, since lockdown was announced in late March and later again in June.  Another shelter manager in Kabul told AAN on 12 July: “We normally have around 30 to 35 women in the shelter, but this has increased to 70 women in these past three months, which is way above the capacity of the shelter.”  

The cause of admissions to the shelters also changed during the peak of Covid-19. According to Ms Yarzada, usually most women in their shelter were dealing with sensitive legal cases, such as divorce or escape from forced marriages. However, the new admissions were mostly as a result of domestic violence, including some extreme cases of physical assault. According to Mary Akrami, director of the Afghan Women’s Network, Covid-19 has aggravated the triggers of domestic violence: 

Before the pandemic, in most cases, it was tiny triggers, like the food being overcooked, the baby crying, or a spot on the husband’s washed clothes, that would cause a fight and verbal and physical abuse. Just think about it for a moment. With the frustration and stress that corona brought to our lives, what do you think women – especially housewives – are experiencing now? 

Despite the increase in victims of violence witnessed by shelters, there has not been an increase in the reporting of incidents of violence against women. For most women, remedies are hard to come by, particularly during this pandemic. Typically women can report violence or abuse to their Provincial Directorate of Women’s Affairs, the EVAW monitoring office or the AIHRC. But during the pandemic, public offices were closed in most provinces for months (some public offices were open half-days or three days a week, but most offices remained closed from May to August). As a result, women were left with no avenues to report domestic abuse. The AIHRC is planning to set up a telephone complaints system in response to this challenge, but even remote filing of complaints can be complicated for women who may not have their own cell phones. As the UN Women global report observes, these and other challenges of Covid-19 lockdowns have enabled abusers all over the world to exploit the inability of women to escape their homes.    

Mary Akrami sees the root of the increased violence in the economic insecurity that Covid-19 created for families: 

Most of these incidents are due to poor financial situations and financial frustration. I talked to a school teacher the other day who was not able to teach and was not paid during the lockdown. Her husband was jobless too and every time the issue of money came up, the man felt under pressure to provide, and since he could not, he would release his anger on the woman and beat her.  

Speaking about domestic violence in the interviews

In the interviews, it seemed that violence and male dominance was internalised and accepted by many women, except in the most extreme cases that, for instance, result in mutilation or murder. Interviewing women about domestic violence was a challenging task, with many women reluctant to discuss it when they were directly asked about violence during lockdown. In order to provide a safer environment for the interviewees, questions were modified and instead of inquiring directly about physical or verbal abuse, interviewees were asked to share if they had experienced any change of behaviour at home. For example, if male family members’ anger had increased, if they had been in direct fights with the men in the family and for what reasons and finally if they had heard about any increase of violence within their network. 

A housewife and mother of four, who lives with her husband and his two other wives in Kabul, spoke openly to AAN about the following violence:

My husband is sick and has been at home for three years now. With the fear of Covid-19 and the children staying at home, he became less tolerant every day. We had experienced his rage before when he had beaten his daughters and his wives, even the one who is disabled. In the past few months he almost lost it, since he was sick and incapable of running around to beat us, so he would tell his two elder sons to discipline us, me and his other wife and my elder daughter, who is fifteen years old now.

One interviewee from Kabul acknowledged an increase in verbal abuse at home. Her grandfather’s irritable behaviour made home life difficult for her and the rest of the women in the family, who had no choice but to follow the lockdown protocols and stay home. Other interviewees mentioned tension at home but also said it was only to be expected, due to the change of situation and the financial and mental stress.

There are several potential reasons for the increased risk of violence, including extended periods of confined living, increased economic stress and increased anxiety caused by the pandemic. One interviewee, a housewife, mother of three children and residing in Kabul, noted how tense things had become with her husband: 

He could not work, so he was trapped in the house for at least a month until we ran out of sources to borrow money from. Then he was forced to go back to look for work [but] he would come back home with no money because there was much less demand for labour in the market. This situation affected his behaviour with us [female family members]. But we tried to be understanding of his situation.  

A married interviewee from Mazar-e Sharif told AAN that there were times when she would borrow food from the neighbour without her husband knowing, to help ease the situation and keep the stress level at home down. 

A housewife and mother of eight adult children, who is 62 years old, living in Kabul, said:

In our family, we did not face any change of attitude. However, I know that there has been an increase in domestic violence since the pandemic started. In our neighbourhood, one of our neighbours, who is a taxi driver, did not work for over two months because he has high blood pressure and was afraid of the virus. We witnessed time and again family fights. A few times, maybe two times, I saw the wife and children staying in the yard for hours to avoid his rage. 

A government employee, mother of two and Kabul resident, said:

I think everyone faced one or another kind of change in family behaviour. For us, my two kids and husband stayed together and did not visit our families for fear of spreading the virus. I still went to work, but my husband stayed home, so we do not know much about what happened in our [extended] families.   I know about one case of a woman escaping from home due to extreme physical abuse by her husband. They were married for about a year, but their relationship deteriorated with the pandemic.

While many women that AAN spoke with did not speak about domestic abuse, when asked whether family relationships had been affected they all talked about the stress, frustration, and mental health challenges of the pandemic that had affected members of their families, primarily the men. One interviewee, who works for a humanitarian organisation in Mazar-e Sharif, said the quality of her relationship with her husband had deteriorated due to the Covid-19 situation.  “All of us being at home together and under financial pressure left a mark on our relationship. He has grown less patient with the children and me, which is understandable.”

One interviewee – who was notably unmarried – said the family bond had become stronger during Covid-19. The woman, who is in her twenties and lives with her four sisters and parents, said the family grew closer and more understanding of each other during the lockdown. Her situation has undoubtedly been helped by the fact that she was the only person with an income and was able to continue working from home, so the financial stress was limited and the economic burden was not on the only man in the family (her father).   

The burden of losing one’s own space

Among the marks that Covid-19 left on women’s lives, a loss of private space was acutely felt among women in Afghanistan. Given the strict social norms that separate men and women, for many women, the home provides a female sanctuary during the day, when men are usually at work or out of the home. Most Afghans live in extended families that often include the wives and children of siblings, as well as the elderly parents, with many women acting as housewives who do not engage in outside work. As a result, the home can be a place where, besides the household chores that tend to occupy them, women can carve out some time for themselves during the day. During this time, they could engage in activities such as embroidery handicrafts, woodwork, braiding their hair, they could spend the time alone or on mehmani va did o bazdid (family gatherings). They could as one interviewee put it “easily move around and be free and careless, whether their scarfs are fixed, or their hijab and conduct is correct or not.” With so many men confined to the home during the peak of the pandemic restrictions, this free, feminine space was lost. 

The discussion about this private space for women is particularly important because every other space in Afghanistan, whether public or private, tends to be dominated by men. In streets and bazaars, the burden is placed on women to be careful not to attract any attention towards themselves and to act as if they were almost invisible. In restaurants, they tend to be confined to a tiny ‘family’ space, that is often poorly furnished compared to the area designed for men. Even in these designated spaces women have to be careful not to raise their voices or behave in any way that would attract attention. Women cannot go to mosques, except in the rare cases where there is a space allocated for women to pray. 

The housewife who was quoted earlier, a mother of four, living with her husband and his two other wives in Kabul, told AAN: 

There is a certain peace of mind when we have the house to ourselves. When men come at night, we have to have the food ready and make sure they have everything they need, since they come back tired from work. We have to provide a comfortable environment for them. During the day, we are free. I do not feel that I am under a command.

Girls’ education and Covid-19

In Afghanistan, an estimated 3.7 million children are not in school, out of which according to UNICEF-Afghanistan 60 per cent are girls. The pandemic poses a threat to many years of effort to get more girls enrolled in school or going to university. Schools were closed for five months until re-opening in September this year as a precautionary measure to prevent the spread of coronavirus. Educational awareness and incentive programmes by the Ministry of Education and international organisations like UNICEF were suspended.  

With already so many cultural barriers to female education in place, the impact of missing just a few months of education can be profound for individual girls and women. One woman from Yakawlang district of Bamyan told AAN that she had initially planned to send her daughter to university next year, but because of the Covid-19 situation, she had now arranged for her to be married: This year is gone, and no one knows what will happen next year. It is too much responsibility to keep a young woman at home and unmarried.

In a situation of economic hardship, girls in the families are more at risk of being deprioritised when it comes to the cost of schooling or higher education. In some specific cases, security reasons also factor into the decision. An interviewee in Kabul said she had withdrawn her four daughters from school because of a combination of financial and security reasons (but not her three sons). Her girls had been enrolled in a private school because the school was closer to home and they “did not feel safe enough to send them to public schools,” she told AAN. “With the pandemic, we are closing down our small tailoring enterprise, and that means we cannot pay for the girls to continue school. When asked how the girls felt about this, she said “They know we will never agree to allow them to take public transportation on their own to attend school at the other side of town. This is the best we can do now, to protect them.” 

A university student, unmarried, who lives in the north of Kabul told AAN that she had lost respect and freedom within the family since the pandemic forced her to quit university (she was in her second year) and had disrupted her work and means of income. She said, 

In the winter I teach English and Pashto in tuition centres. During the school year I also study myself. This has helped me gain respect within the family and to be appreciated for [both] the help I offer in the household and my financial contribution to the family. Always being at home during the pandemic has taken that from me. Because I am not studying, it means I have no plans of my own, so it has become my responsibility to serve my brothers and elder siblings in the home. 

There have been some attempts to make up for the closure of schools during the pandemic. The Ministry of Education launched an online platform to provide home education through Alternative Learning Services. However, even with remote learning there can often be a gender gap. The Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) for example, had a programme to deliver home-based education to over 10,000 children during the pandemic. Saida Sherzad, an Education Specialist at the NRC, told AAN: 

There was a vast difference between who could and who could not receive an education [through the programme]. Most girls did not have access to the internet. They did not own a cell phone, let alone a computer, and families would often not allow their daughters to go to the centre of the district or province to access the internet and download the materials. 

Increased burden on women as (unpaid) carers and domestic workers during Covid-19

In Afghanistan, the (paid) labour force participation rate for women was estimated to be around 21 per cent in 2019 (according to ILO data, reported here by the World Bank). In addition to this, women do an estimated 75 per cent of the (unpaid) work around the household, often referred to as “invisible work.” This includes cleaning, cooking and childcare, as well as care for sick, disabled and elderly family members. A Time Use Survey by UN Women Afghanistan found that Afghan women were doing over three times more unpaid house and care work than Afghan men. (2) 

During the pandemic – and in particular the lockdown – the amount of work in and around the house tended to increase, since more people were in the home at any given time and families often had to make do with fewer resources. AAN’s interviews indicated that women carried most of the burden of this increased household work, while also providing support for the sick and elderly and trying to manage the children’s education – or simply their presence – at home. The stigma around the coronavirus often prompted families to take care of their sick at home and avoid medical help, more than normally would have been the case. Strict gender roles and the belief that men helping with household tasks goes against Afghan culture, further explain why the pandemic increased the workload of the women at home, rather than promoting a culture of sharing care and housework tasks. 

Although women’s responsibilities obviously varied according to their circumstances, during the lockdown many faced the same challenges, as illustrated in AAN’s interviews. 

One of the interviewees was a married government employee who lived with her husband and two children. Her husband worked in a private advertising firm, which was closed, while she continued to work in her office at least three days a week. While before the lockdown her children attended a child care centre, during the lockdown her husband and children stayed home and remained at home even after the lockdown was lifted. She described her typical day: 

I wake up and make breakfast and try to do some cleaning before I leave for the office. Then I work during the day, get the groceries on my way back, cook dinner and lunch for the next day – this would not be required before quarantine as no one was home during the day – then I clean the house, and finish the household work.

When she was asked whether she accepts her workload or whether she would like her husband to contribute to the household chores, she said:

When I married, I wanted to keep my job. The condition was that I should not fall behind with the housework and raising the children. My husband sometimes cooks and washes the dishes, but no one knows about it in the family as it is considered shameful and would ruin our image. He is looking for jobs too. So I do not pressure him to do any work at home.

Another woman, who lives in an informal settlement in Kabul and was interviewed in July, said she was juggling caring for her children and her elders (her husband’s father and her own mother), doing the housework and going out to work (she earns money by begging). She did not see the additional challenges of Covid-19 as an unfair burden, or feel that she could ask for other family members to share more responsibility:

I clean the house, take care of the kids and I go out for some Gharibi (begging). Some days I bring in 100 Afs [1,30 USD], some days 200. You don’t know what waits for you in a day. But I know what there is if I do not work: hungry kids. I did not work for more than a month, and my husband could not work either. We were all sick.  During this time of difficulty, my father in law and brother in law got very sick. I took care of them for almost a month, before my father in law passed away. He passed away two days ago. This is what a woman does. We are Jogi women [Magat ethnicity]; we have to be strong. We have to work at home and outside, along with our husbands. 

A computer science student from Balkh province told AAN that when everyone at her home got sick, she was the only one who had to care for everybody:

My mother has diabetes and my father does not work in the home, no matter the situation. My sisters are younger than me and my grandparents are old. We were studying online and I was managing my studies together with the household work. However, when the first wave of Covid-19 came, we all got sick, and I could not attend any class for two months … I was taking care of the family … Then my grandfather passed away and again I missed my classes. I do not think I can follow the studies for this year anymore. 

A mother of four who lives with her husband and his extended family in one Havili (a traditional Afghan house with multiple rooms) described her increased responsibility like this: 

My two sisters-in-law and I have ten children altogether… This spring, due to the school closures, we struggled to look after all the children who were extra sensitive and needed extra attention because they were locked in the house. In addition to that, everyone else was at home all day, which demanded more cooking and cleaning. Before this virus… I used to finish an embroidery work every two weeks and get paid around three thousand Afghani (40 USD) per piece. This money often saved us in emergency situations. But I have not been able to finish more than two yakhan [embroidered male garments] since the start of the lockdown. 

Women and Mental Health During Covid-19

A lack of reliable information about coronavirus, coupled with the deaths and rapid spread of myths and stigma surrounding the virus, caused many people significant mental distress. Many families also faced financial hardship due to the coronavirus and the measures to stop its spread, which was another leading factor in the rise of anxiety and stress, even before the virus had spread widely. The Ministry of Public Health has previously estimated that 50 per cent of the population is dealing with one or another form of mental health issue. The Covid-19 situation only intensified this problem. 

Women’s mental health was specifically affected by Covid-19. According to a worldwide United Nation’s policy brief on Covid-19 and the Need for Action on Mental Health, women constitute a specific population group that show a high degree of Covis-19 related psychological distress, along with people caught in fragile humanitarian and conflict settings, frontline health workers, elders with chronological disease and children. “Women are bearing a large brunt of the stress in the home, as well as disproportionate impacts more generally,” the report emphasises. 

Causes of the increased mental distress, depression and anxiety among women and children, according to the report, include increased domestic violence and abuse and the burden of increased housework and home schooling of children. The report quotes a survey of Indian women which found that 66 per cent of women reported being stressed due to Covid-19, compared to 34 per cent of men. The report also indicates that the rate of anxiety and stress is exceptionally high among pregnant women and new mothers, due to fear of the infants being infected and difficulty in accessing health services and social support during to the pandemic. This was also confirmed in a rapid response survey done by the university of Alberta, published by Global Women’s Health, the findings of which showed “a substantial increase in self-reported maternal depression and anxiety from pre to during-pandemic.” (3)

In the in-depth interviews done by AAN, all the women who were interviewed expressed a high level of stress within the family. For some, it was the fear of losing loved ones, for others, the stress was due to financial difficulties. Some struggled to do their work with children at home or struggled to keep the men in the family calm. 

It is important to keep in mind that, from the author’s own understanding of Afghan society, Afghan women usually do not talk about mental distress. Talking about mental health in general, and mental issues like high anxiety, panic attacks and depression carries a stigma since all tend to be categorised under the label of being “mentally ill.” 

However, some women did talk about their experience of narahati va tashwish (being unhappy and concerned). An internally displaced woman originally from Herat, who had lived for many years in an IDP camp, shared her experience of depression with AAN on 2 July: 

The most challenging part was to stay sane through all the problems. As if living in a camp and dealing with poverty and seeing no sign of a brighter future was not enough. I am a single mother, trying to raise my kids on my own. This is a difficult job for a woman. It is not the same when a man is widowed. I did laundry for a living. I lost my job because people did not feel safe bringing an outsider into their homes with the virus everywhere. My son almost died because he was really sick these past weeks. Since then, I have developed this anxiety – what if I die, who will feed my children? I find myself waking up at night and checking on them. We do not have money; we cannot eat good food to prevent the virus. They say it is a terrible disease. What if they force us to leave the camp if we catch it?  

One interviewee, a mother of four living with her husband’s extended family in the same house, spoke about her children and the difficulty of keeping them home to keep them safe.

 My husband locked the gate to prevent the children from getting out. One day they stole the key and threw it away, so we were forced to break the lock. Most shops around our house were closed, so it took us a few days to replace the lock. In the meantime, the kids used the opportunity to escape from home. They were punished every time they went out, but they would still use any chance or pull any trick to get out. My husband is short-tempered and every time this happened the kids were beaten. I felt helpless. At some point, I would just hide and ignore what was happening. I keep quiet now and do not argue anymore; I am more reserved and withdrawn than before. I also get these frequent headaches, which I think are due to the high level of stress.

A journalist, unmarried and based in Kabul, had to stay with her grandfather’s family during the lockdown, where she felt the mental health toll of being “constantly controlled.” She explains: 

I knew they were worried about me and did not want me to go out because of the health risks, but it was the first time in my life that I was being told what I was allowed to do or do not. My grandfather strictly prohibited me from going out, even when I needed to see an ophthalmologist. One day I lied to get out of the house to go and see the doctor, but my grandfather called me by video and as soon as he saw I was out, in the hospital, he became agitated. This was the point when I could not take it anymore, so I left my grandfather’s house and went back to my place. I was stressed and depressed, but I knew it would be better than living under those circumstances. When I moved back to my place, at first I thought the anxiety and depression I was going through was temporary and due to all the news about the virus and deaths. But now it looks like I have become more introspective and an isolated person.


Despite two decades of efforts in Afghanistan to promote gender equality, decrease the gender gap in health and education and reduce violence against women, the pandemic has shown how tenuous progress can be. Gender segregation and discrimination, which are deeply rooted in Afghan tradition, underlie many of the specific challenges women face as a result of Covid-19. Violence against women, particularly in the home, has increased, but Afghanistan’s weak protection mechanisms were unable to respond, lacking even safe means for women to report violence, let alone address it. The absence of an inclusive care economy left women carrying the brunt of the extra work and stresses in and around the house. The cost in terms of time and opportunity, as well as the mental and physical toll of the extra unpaid work, has put an immense strain on the small but rising population of working women. It adversely impacts the choices women can make with regard to paid work outside the home, limiting them to mostly part time jobs, that are near their homes and do not demand a lot of extra work or effort, since they already have full times job at home that they have to commit to. These women would be greatly helped with policies that encouraged or facilitated a more inclusive care economy, such as the provision of public care services for children or the elderly, so that they would not have to leave their jobs, limit their career choices or buckle under the pressure of a double workload. 

With nowhere to go and being constantly surrounded by their immediate and extended family, women moreover lost the little private space of their own they had. The combination of increased levels of violence, heightened economic stress at home, additional domestic labour and the loss of this feminine space, has meant that women’s mental health has come under tremendous strain during the pandemic. 

While some hope that the spread of the virus is decreasing, it is widely predicted to surge again in the winter months, when respiratory diseases tend to thrive. The increased risks, burdens and stresses for women are thus far from over, with no sign that the government is capable of mitigating the increased risk of violence, or able to relieve the impact of reduced access to education and health. With the virus still looming, if another lockdown is imposed through the colder months, many women can expect a dark winter ahead.   

Edited by Rachel Reid, Jelena Bjelica and Martine van Bijlert

(1) For this research, in-depth interviews were conducted with fifteen women: two women from Bamyan, Yakawlang, two from Meramour and Shahristan districts of Daikundi, three women from Mazar-e Sharif, Balkh province and eight interviews in Kabul. Two of the women who were interviewed in Kabul were internally displaced and living in camps in Kabul, one of them a single mother and the breadwinner of her family; the other woman belonged to the Magat community, living in informal settlements in Kabul. The other five women in Kabul came from different backgrounds. As can be seen below, two women were unmarried and one was separated from her husband. The others were all married. 

All interviews in Kabul, Daikundi and Bamyan were conducted in person. Given the setting of the households and number of families that lived together, in most of these interviews it was challenging to have a one to one conversation with the interviewee.  In some cases, other women and girls in the household either joined the chat and shared their experiences too (some are quoted in the report), or were only present and listening. This may have affected some of the inputs, given the sensitivity of the questions, especially questions about change of behaviour in the family or instances of family fights or disputes during Covid-19.   

Details of the interviewees:

NO IntervieweeAge Marital Status Number of Children Province/ Rural or Urban 
1Humanitarian worker25Married 0Kabul, Urban
2Journalist 26UnmarriedNAKabul, Urban
3Housewife 38Married 4Kabul, informal settlement 
4Housewife In her late 20s Married Kabul, Urban
5Housewife 62Married 8Kabul, Urban 
6Government employee32Married 2Kabul, Urban
7Daily labourer In her mid-30s  Married 6Kabul, informal settlement 
8Daily labourer 52Separated from her husband years ago (not divorced)3Kabul, living in IDP camp
9Housewife, farmer  23Married 1Daikundi, Rural 
10Housewife, farmer  In her 50sMarried 6Daikundi, Rural 
11Housewife, farmerIn her 40sMarried 5Bamyan, Rural 
12Housewife, farmer In her 50sMarried 7Bamyan, Rural 
13Humanitarian worker 26Married 2Balkh, Urban
14Housewife In her 30sMarried  3Balkh, Urban 
15University student 23UnmarriedNABalkh, Urban 

(2) UN Women’s Afghanistan Time Use Survey was conducted in Nangrahar, Kabul, Takhar, Balkh, Herat, Kandahar, and Paktia provinces. 4,400 respondents were surveyed, all over eighteen years of age. The findings were published in UN Women’s report: Impact of Covid-19 on Unpaid Care and Domestic Work in Afghanistan. UN Women has published a series of reports and  gender alerts regarding Covid-19 and its impact on women in Afghanistan that can be found here.

(3) Another report on the mental health consequences of Covid-19, this time in Iran, was published by the Journal of Military Medicine here.


Covid-19 Health pandemic women and covid-19 women health


Khadija Hossaini

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