Pressures on international aid and a resurgent Taliban mean that women’s shelters, which provide refuge and education to women escaping abusive husbands and repressive traditions such as honour killings, face the threat of closure.
A shelter which gives refuge to around 300 women costs $14,000 a month to operate, and there are nearly 30 shelters across Afghanistan
The Humanitarian Assistance for the Women and Children of Afghanistan (HAWCA), which runs one such shelter, is finding it difficult to get funding. The UN and other aid groups have been unable to provide it with the funding it needs. In March, it launched an emergency appeal for funding, after it was told that it may lose support from the UN. After the appeal, the UN extended its funding for three months. However, it could raise only $13,500.
A 19-year-old living in a shelter in Kabul says that without the shelter, women like her will be on the streets. She had run away from home after her father had tried to sell her as a bride in exchange for getting a young bride of his own. At the shelter, she has learned how to read, write and sew.
“There are men who mistreat and abuse girls and women who have no place to live,” she said.
The shelters house an estimated 2,000 women at any given time. The government offers no funding for shelters, nor does it operate any shelters of its own. Conservative leaders say that shelters contribute to immorality among women. Most shelters operate in secret.