Despite U.S. military’s presence in Afghanistan for over 10 years and the significant weakening of the Taliban, a new poll of 213 gender experts from five continents found that Afghanistan is the worst place for women.

The poll, conducted by the Thomson Reuters Foundation, ranked countries on issues like overall perception of danger, access to healthcare, violence, cultural discrimination and human trafficking.  The Democratic Republic of Congo and Pakistan ranked second and third.

The BBC reports

Ongoing conflict, Nato airstrikes and cultural practices combined make Afghanistan a very dangerous place for women,” said Antonella Notari, head of Women Change Makers, a group that supports women social entrepreneurs around the world.  

In addition, women who do attempt to speak out or take on public roles that challenge ingrained gender stereotypes of what is acceptable for women to do or not, such as working as policewomen or news broadcasters, are often intimidated or killed,” she added.  

This unfortunate reality makes the launch of a new Congressional Task Force on Afghan Womenall the more important.  Created by Reps. Cathy McMorris Rodgers and Donna Edwards, the task force will focus on protecting women’s roles in the Afghan government – especially in preparation for the transition to Afghan-led security next month.  The task force will also launch mentoring programs for Afghanistan’s female Members of Parliament, prospective elected officials, and civic and business leaders. 

McMorris Rogers said “This is a critical time for U.S. decision makers to interact directly with Afghan leaders to ensure women’s meaningful inclusion in the Afghan Peace and Reintegration Plan, in addition to the long-term stabilization of Afghanistan.  And it’s the women that hold these keys to success. This is not just about women’s rights, but human rights – and the belief that all of us have been bestowed with certain universal freedoms.”

The Afghan Women’s Task Force Facebook page can be viewed here