The Afghan woman who had to pay her son to accompany her on a work trip

Life as a female in Afghanistan is tougher than any of us here can imagine.

For many girls and women, what had previously been a relatively normal existence – going to work, school or university, meeting up with friends and celebrating life events with family – all came to a stop when the Taliban took full control of the country just over a year ago.

Dancing is banned, large wedding parties are outlawed and women cannot meet in groups amid fears they could – as has been seen in Iran recently – get together to rebel.

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Patrick Watt, chief executive of Christian Aid, returned from a visit to the country just two weeks ago. The picture he paints when we meet in Edinburgh is bleak. One 17-year-old girl he met, who had until last year been aiming to get into medical school, is now receiving no education at all, after the Taliban ordered most secondary schools for girls to close. Instead, she spends her time largely confined to the house, with no prospects or ambitions for her future.

The Afghan community in London flew kites on Hampstead Heath this summer to commemorate one year since the fall of Afghanistan to the Taliban.

He also tells me the story of a female member of staff at a local organisation who needed to go out on a day trip for a work project. Like any women who still have jobs – and they are few and far between – she usually works from home. In this case, to be able to move around outside of her home, she had to arrange for her university-age son to act as a chaperone for the day – paid a per diem fee for the shift. Any woman who wants to work outside of the home can technically do so, but she would need to make this chaperone arrangement permanent, making it practically – and financially – impossible for most companies to employ a female member of staff.

Mr Watt told me he saw little leisure in Kabul – save a few people flying kites, traditionally a national sport in Afghanistan. Previously banned under the Taliban in its first stint in power in the 1990s, it is unclear whether the pastime is now technically allowed or not.

At a time when a woman cannot work unchaperoned, kite flying must feel like a huge act of rebellion.

Afghan women hold placards during a protest in front of Kabul University in Kabul. Girls' access to education has been increasingly restricted under the Taliban.

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