Women, Girls and the Food Crisis in Afghanistan
This blog is based on the research from CARE Afghanistan prepared by Lee Ariana Rasheed and Melissa Cornet.
“Boys are prioritized and eat better than girls do because usually mothers love their sons more than their daughters. Also, the boys go outside and do some work as well so need to eat more.” -- Man, FGD, Kabul
“I know my husband wants me to eat before him and make sure I have enough food. But I want him to eat. Sometimes I tell him that I have eaten when I haven’t so that he will eat. I will eat if there is anything left after that.” -- Woman, male-headed household, Kabul
In this study, CARE looks at (1) the impact on women and girls, including in terms of food prioritization inside the household, (2) coping mechanisms affecting women and girls, including child marriage, and (3) the integration of women and girls in the delivery of aid. The research combines the results of 345 interviews with women and the results of literature review since August 2021.
“Before August 2021 we would cook 3 to 4 food items per meal (rice, chicken, meat). Now we only cook one item. The food is just too expensive now. Some nights we would eat nothing and go to sleep hungry.” -- Woman, male-headed household, Parwan
Here are the key findings:
- 87.2 percent of survey respondents reported that since August 2021, they had experienced a considerable decrease in their household income.
- 81 percent of women reported that they had had to skip a meal in the last two weeks and in 95 percent of households, women said that they and/or other household members had reduced food consumption overall.
- Out of the 345 women interviewed, 41, or 12 percent, indicated that severe levels of food insecurity had forced them to marry one of the girls of the family under the age of 18 in the past. Fifty-five percent of the survey respondents indicated that child marriage was one of the main safety and security concerns facing girls in their community.
- Only 34 percent of women respondents suggested that they had received some form of support in the last year. Of those women who received support, fewer than 15 percent had been consulted on the type of assistance they needed prior to receiving it.
- Only 19 percent of the women surveyed reported that the humanitarian assistance they received had been adapted to meet their specific needs. In addition, the women interviewed for this study also indicated that the modalities of delivery do not always work for them. Examples included: the delivery of aid in mosques, which are often not accessible to women; the distribution of aid through male humanitarian workers, which can be culturally inappropriate.
- Of the women who received support and indicated support was not adapted, 97 percent indicated they were not able to report the issues to humanitarian actors.
- In November 2021, a CARE Multi-Sectoral Needs Assessment (MSNA) found that 64 percent of Afghan women surveyed were not involved in community-level decision making. The same study found that while 70 percent of men reported that they had been consulted about their needs, nearly 70 percent of women had not been consulted.
Women and girls across Afghanistan will continue to face greater vulnerability and marginalization regarding their food security status, as a result of numerous inter-connected barriers that make them likely to experience severe food insecurity.
Current conditions of the country will continue to imperil millions of people's lives and livelihoods, putting families at urgent levels of food insecurity. The effects of the economic crisis, largely attributed to ongoing sanctions of Afghanistan and the impact of the conflict in Ukraine on global food prices, will continue to put heavy strain on households’ access to food.
Women and girls continue to be the most marginalized across the country, facing severe levels of food insecurity and significant barriers to economic opportunities. This puts women and girls at greater risks when it comes to adopting negative coping mechanisms such as selling independent financial assets, forced child marriage, organ trafficking, and unhealthy cooking practices.
Current humanitarian response efforts, though commendable for their commitment to supporting women and girls, are too often gender-unaware in their design and delivery. Consulting and involving women and girls in the planning and implementation of food security interventions is critical to ensure a safe, adequate and principled response.