Afghan women ‘never grow old’

  • Nation
  • Monday, 09 May 2005

PUTRAJAYA: “Women in Afghanistan never grow old – they die before they can do so.” 

Presenting this grim picture, Afghan Minister of Women's Affairs Dr Massouda Jalal said the average lifespan of her countrywomen was only 44 years. 

Many women, she said, died due to the lack of medical facilities, especially during childbirth, in armed conflicts and through extreme poverty. 

These, she said, were just a few of the challenges facing women and young girls in her country, which was just emerging from more than two decades of war. 

LET’S TALK: Dr Sharifah Zarah Syed Ahmad (left) under-secretary of the International Relations Division of the Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development getting ready to chair a meeting at the NAM Ministerial Meeting on the Advancement of Women in Putrajaya Sunday.

Dr Massouda, a paediatrician who is here for the Non-Aligned Movement Ministerial Meeting on the Advancement of Women, said Afghanistan scored a dubious first in the number of deaths of mothers and infants during childbirth. 

“An average of 1,900 mothers out of 100,000 die during childbirth while the number of infant deaths in some regions can reach as high as 6,500 out of 100,000 births. 

“Every day, we lose 70 mothers and 700 children due to the lack of health services,” she said after a closed-door meeting with Women, Family and Community Development Minister Datuk Seri Shahrizat Abdul Jalil on the sidelines of the senior officials meeting at the Putrajaya International Convention Centre here yesterday. 

She said that three years after the Taliban rule was toppled, 60% of girls of school-going age were still not getting an education, and 70% of families were still living in extreme poverty. 

Dr Massouda said as a member of NAM, Afghanistan harboured high hopes that this meeting could somehow lessen the suffering of Afghan women through the identification of projects that could directly benefit them. 

The world, she said, was aware of the problems facing women in Afghanistan as evidenced by the monetary aid coming their way, but the problem was that out of every million dollars pledged, only a dollar finally reaches the target group. 

She said that although the situation of women in Afghanistan had improved over the past three years, they were still “way behind” women in other countries in terms of employment, access to health services and education.  

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