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Digital ID a surprising, qualified success for women in Afghanistan

Digital ID a surprising, qualified success for women in Afghanistan

The World Bank, intent on pushing efforts in Afghanistan to provide legal identification for women as well as men, is reporting some success with a biometric electronic ID.

It is not the typical story coming out of Afghanistan, and the anti-modernity Taliban is the ultimate revenant religious force, but there remains hope that the lot of women there can be improved to some small degree by getting them recognized legally in their own nation.

Like anywhere, even failed states, it is impossible to participate in an economy or get government services without reliable identification. This is especially true in rural Afghanistan.

Moderating forces from around the world have pushed back on cultural rules that disenfranchise women and girls, and the Taliban no longer governs the whole country. Yet the World Bank points out in a new blog post that Afghan women are still forced into a second-class existence.

Afghanistan’s national digital ID, the tazkira, is being updated as part of multiple inclusion programs funded through the World Bank. In the aftermath of the Taliban’s nationwide hold (it still dominates in some regions) tazkira’s for women were legalized, a fact that is not widely known or even accepted in the countryside and mountain villages.

Two years ago, the bank helped launch the e-tazkira. Proponents hope to replace the paper document eventually.

Today, 47 percent of new e-tazkira digital identity registrants are women. It is a bigger deal than it seems at first.

Fifty-two percent of women in 2017 lacked an ID. Only six percent of men found themselves in the same situation, according to the bank.

And of the most vulnerable population — women who have become refugees in their own country — 80 percent lack tazkiras. Until recently, a woman legally could not get an ID unless she was accompanied to one of the scarce government centers by a male relative. The relative even had to agree to let a photo be taken of her.

That is no longer a law, but that does not stop some officials from requiring it regardless.

As part of the e-tazkira program, other requirements were relaxed as well to make getting the document easier for women. The changes have made it possible for women who have never had or who have lost relevant documents in the war to get the electronic ID document.

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