An Afghan woman adjusts her burqa, as she walks past by a shop selling food in Kabul. A menora is reflected in the window
Salma works on her laptop as Rada walks through an open door in their house.
Afghan parliamentary election candidate Galia Nooristani is seen in Kabul next to a poster of a model.
A burqa clad woman feeds pigeons at the shrine of Hazrat Ali.
Afghan police officers train in Herat. NATO defense ministers have approved a mission to train the Afghan police in paramilitary skills in a bid to cut the force's soaring death rate.
A family, sitting in a patch of sunlight shining through a window and a woman holds up her child.
A girl juggles tennis balls during the World Circus Day organized by Afghan Educational Children Circus and Mobile Mini Circus for Children in Kabul.
A woman at Maslach Refugee Camp. More than 113,000 people, displaced by drought and war, crowd the camp, 15 miles west of Herat.
An Afghan girl practices the martial arts with a sword at a Wushu training club.
A burqa clad woman passes by U.S. soldiers patrolling in an armoured vehicle on International Women's Day.
Women attend their graduation ceremony in Kabul. Reports state that about 8.3 million Afghan students, of which 39 per cent are girls, are enrolled at 14,000 schools and educational institutions, but more than 4.5 million children of school age remained deprived of education and illiteracy is still widespread.
Newly trained army officers of the Afghan National Army and instructors during a graduation ceremony at the National Army's training centre in Kabul.
Women talk as one gets out of a car in a car park in Kabul.
A woman and her child look through a window from their room in the women's section at Herat prison
Rahimeh, who self-immolated in 1995, sits with her husband at their home.
A child watches as a female landmine victim examines her prosthetic leg in a mirror at the International Red Cross Orthopedic (ICRC) rehabilitation centre.
Female customers sit unveiled to have their faces made up in a beauty salon.
A singer encourages the crowd at a concert in Kabul.
A child stands under an umbrella by a ruin on Nadery Hill.
Female customers sit unveiled to have their faces made up in a beauty salon.
Afghan women sit during Ashura, a 10 day period of mourning for Imam Hussein, the seven-century grandson of Prophet Mohammad who was killed in a battle in Karbala in Iraq, in 680 AD.
A burqa-covered woman reads the Sura Al-Fatiha verse of the Koran (Qur'an) over the grave of a relative in the graveyard of Kabul's Saghi District. According to reports, Afghan and Pakistani officials are meeting in Kabul in hopes of ending the nine-year-old war.
A group of Afghan women wearing burqas walk down a road in the central Afghan province of Bamiyan.
Afghan women who lost legs to landmines lie on a bed at the International Red Cross Orthopedic (ICRC) rehabilitation centre in Herat. The aims of the ICRC rehabilitation centre are to educate and rehabilitate landmine victims and others with deformities to help them return their former lives. According to the UN mine information network, 62 people on average are killed or injured by mines each month in Afghanistan.
Veiled young girls study at their desks during a lesson in a makeshift school in an abandoned building, as wind blows through the classroom.
Women broadcast at Herat National Radio.
Afghan Shiite Muslim women wearing burqas pray during Ashura at a Shiite mosque in Kabul. Ashura is a period of mourning in remembrance of the seventh century martyrdom of Prophet Mohammad's grandson Imam Hussein, who was killed in a battle in Karbala in Iraq in 680 AD.
Two female prisoners in their cell in the women's section at Herat prison. They have both been accused of murdering their abusive husbands.
A woman broadcasts from the television centre in Herat.
Burqa clad pedestrians walk on a street of Kabul. The war-torn country, beset by a decade-long Taliban insurgency and rampant corruption, is one of the world's poorest, with more than a third of the population living below the poverty line.
Rada feeds her dog in the yard of her house in Kabul.
To Be a Woman in Afghanistan
Under the brief reign of the Taliban in Afghanistan, the country's women bore the brunt of the suffering. Amnesty International calls Afghanistan under the Taliban 'a human rights catastrophe' and many Afghan women who struggled to survive this era describe themselves then as the 'living dead'. The Taliban regime deprived women of their basic human rights. Women were banned from public life, from the education system and from the job market. No man other than her husband was supposed to hear a woman's voice and women even told not appear in the windows or on the balconies of their homes. The Taliban were determined to control every aspect of Afghanistan's women's lives. The prohibition against women appearing in public without a blood relative or without wearing the all enveloping burqa was the final chapter in the zealous drive to confine women to the home.
A generation of women living under the short-lived but brutal 'Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan' became disillusioned and disenfranchised. The stress and fear of constantly being under tight scrutiny has caused widespread depression, mental health problems and family breakups.
Since the toppling of Kabul's extremist rulers by a US led invasion which came about as a consequence of the terrorist attacks of September 11 in 2001, the lot of women has improved somewhat, though a simmering insurgency persists and conservative elements in society remain as strong and dominant as ever in certain parts of the country. Both homegrown and foreign inspired programmes to improve the lives of women in Afghanistan have changed the playing field to some extent and women have once again started to play an active role in the country's civic life. Women can now be found in the national parliament, the police force and the army. Yet fierce resistance to women's empowerment persists in a country that has been in continual turmoil since the late 1970s.
Malalai Kakar, a female Lieutenant Colonel in Kandahar's police force, was murdered in 2008 and Lieutenant Islam Bibi, the highest ranking policewoman in Helmand province, was shot dead in July 2013.
After the fall of the Taliban, an emergency Loya Jirga (or 'grand assembly' of tribal elders) reserved 10% of the 1,600 seats for women. Following on from this, the 2004 constitution reserved seats for women and minorities in both houses of parliament and while there were three women in President Hamid Karzai's cabinet of 2005 the number has now sunk back to one, the Minister of Women's Affairs. Women are disadvantaged from the outset in the political arena due to a much lower levels of literacy and enduring cultural and social restrictions. Despite making up half of the electorate, women's participation in politics is restricted by lack female voter education, lack of qualified staff for female-only voting stations and other factors.
Women's lives remain precarious in many parts of the country and many women and girls risk their lives by going to work and school. Girls continue to be married off by their relatives in their low teens while Afghanistan carries the shameful accolade of having one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the world. A life expectancy of a mere 44 years therefore doesn't come as too much of a surprise. Amnesty International calls Afghanistan one of the most difficult and dangerous places in the world to be a woman. While the lot of some women has markedly improved after the removal of the Taliban from power it remains to be seen to what extent the new Afghan National Army will be able to control the various insurgencies and sources of conflict in the country and thus give women a better live in a new Afghanistan.