Taliban orders NGOs to ban female workers, endangering humanitarian efforts

  • Taliban orders NGOs to stop female workers from working
  • It comes after the suspension of female students from universities
  • The UN has said that this order will seriously affect humanitarian operations
  • UN to meet the Taliban to clarify

KABUL, Dec 24 (Reuters) – Afghanistan’s Taliban regime on Saturday ordered all local and foreign aid agencies to bar female staff from working, the United Nations said, as the winter hit humanitarian operations in a country already in economic crisis.

In a letter confirmed by Economy Ministry spokesman Abdulrahman Habib, female employees were not allowed to work until further notice because some did not adhere to the administration’s interpretation of the Islamic dress code for women.

Days after the administration ordered universities closed to women, it sparked global condemnation and some protests and harsh criticism within Afghanistan.

The two decisions are the latest in a series of restrictions on women that will undermine the Taliban-run administration’s efforts to gain international recognition and break free from economic sanctions that have severely hampered the economy.

Ramis Alakbarov, the UN’s deputy special representative and humanitarian coordinator for Afghanistan, told Reuters that although the United Nations did not receive a mandate, most of its operations were contracted by non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and would be greatly affected.

“Many of our projects will suffer and cannot be implemented because we cannot implement them without the participation of women workers in assessing humanitarian needs, identifying beneficiaries, providing aid and providing assistance,” he said.

The international aid agency AfghanAid said it was suspending its operations immediately in consultation with other organisations, and other NGOs in the country were taking similar steps.

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Aid programs accessed by millions of Afghans are at risk at a time when more than half the population relies on humanitarian aid, according to aid agencies, and during the mountainous country’s cold season.

“There’s never a perfect time for anything like this … but this particular time is very unfortunate because people are most in need during the winter and the Afghan winters are very harsh,” Alakbarov said.

He said his office would consult with NGOs and UN agencies on Sunday and would meet with Taliban officials to seek clarification.

Aid workers say female workers are essential in a country where rules and cultural norms largely prevent male workers from providing aid to female beneficiaries.

“An important principle for the delivery of humanitarian aid is the ability of women to participate freely and unhindered in its distribution, so if it cannot be done in a principled way, no donors will fund such programs,” Alakbarov said. said.

When asked if the provisions directly covered UN agencies, Habib said the letter would apply to organizations under Afghanistan’s Coordinating Organization for Humanitarian Organizations, known as ACBAR. That organization is not the United Nations, but includes 180 local and international NGOs.

In case of violation, their license will be temporarily revoked, the letter said.

Afghanistan’s already struggling economy has been in crisis since the Taliban took over in 2021, with the country facing economic sanctions, development aid cuts and central bank asset freezes.

According to AfghanAid, a record 28 million Afghans are estimated to need humanitarian assistance next year.

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Reporting by Mark Potter Editing by Kabul Newsroom

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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