Afghan women have always faced challenges in accessing education and certain career paths. The Taliban’s resurgence in Afghanistan has further compromised their freedom to choose and pursue a career of their choice. However, against all odds, many women are now opting to become nurses and midwives to help their fellow women during childbirth.
According to reports, since the Taliban took over Kabul, women have been rushed to hospitals struggling with fatal complications. Unfortunately, many do not make it to the hospital on time due to the country’s shattered infrastructure and the Taliban’s refusal to let women travel without the presence of a male companion. Such restrictions have pushed women to take up midwifery courses to be able to provide crucial medical aid to expectant mothers.
Before the Taliban takeover, nursing and midwifery courses were already popular among women in Afghanistan. However, after the Taliban’s violent rise, professions such as police officer, teacher, or news anchor that were once accessible to women have been now banned. Therefore, healthcare has become one of the few possible career choices for Afghan women.
While the Taliban rule may have placed several hindrances in front of the Afghani women population, this move towards becoming a midwife is indeed a significant and edifying trend. Midwives are responsible for ensuring that pregnancies are healthy, women receive prenatal and postnatal care, and infants receive the required vaccines. Moreover, they can also provide advice for family planning, infant feeding, and general health, especially related to reproduction.
Apart from the general concerns, midwives offer a sigh of relief to pregnant women in the country, they do not have to worry about mistreatment or hostile environments. Afghan women have a poor track record of accessing proper healthcare, and this is mainly because of societal taboos built around the idea of men treating women’s medical issues. In such circumstances, female midwives play a pivotal role in establishing an environment in which Afghan women can receive healthcare without fear of sexual harassment, rape, or any other vitriol. Their presence enhances their courage, and women are more willing to seek care for themselves and their children.
Despite the opportunity gap, many Afghan women have pursued their dream of becoming a nurse or midwife. The training has been made available in Afghanistan by the Afghan Ministry of Public Health (MoPH). Training is consistent with international standards and guidelines of midwifery and nursing education. But unfortunately, the sheer lack of infrastructure for proper funds restrains these courses to few areas. Nonetheless, the move is remarkable and courageous, and it will undoubtedly inspire a generation of Afghan women who are reluctant to be hampered by society’s expectations.
There are some good examples of the contribution of trained midwives to the overall well-being of mothers in many Taliban-run regions. For instance, in 2002, the Afghanistan Midwifery Program (AMP) emerged as a novel initiative to upgrade the quality of midwifery care throughout the country. As of 2021, Afghanistan has enough trained midwives to reach 90% or more of its population. The midwives supported by the AMP have contributed to a significant decrease in maternal deaths since their inception, thereby providing hope for the future of maternal and infant health in the country.
The education offered is both practical and theoretical. Therefore, students get to hone their skills in modern-day technologies that allowed them to cope with the latest techniques of midwifery. However, as already mentioned, there is still a lack of infrastructure, and equipment is outdated or faulty, and the pay scale of these professionals is minimal. However, this doesn’t hinder their spirits, and women are resolute in pursuing careers that will help their fellow women.
To sum it up, it is crucial to understand that the rise of women in the field of midwifery is a testament to their determination and zeal to challenge the status quo. Even though the Taliban’s rule may continue to bring about several obstacles for Afghan women, these women are unrelenting in their quest to fulfill their passion and provide healthcare to their countrywomen. Despite the lack of modern equipment and infrastructure, and with the Taliban breathing down their necks, these women are an inspiration to not only their countrywomen but to the world as well.