NGOs suspend activities in Afghanistan after ban on women employment

Three foreign NGOs announced this Sunday (25) the suspension of activities in Afghanistan after the Taliban regime banned women from working in this type of organization.

“Pending no further explanation of the announcement, we suspend our programs and demand that men and women can continue, on equal terms, with our help to save lives in Afghanistan,” said in a statement the NGOs Save the Children, Norwegian Council for Refugees and CARE.

Dozens of NGO representatives and UN officials gathered in Kabul on Sunday to discuss steps to be taken after the Taliban ordered them to stop employing women.

On Saturday, the Afghan Ministry of Economy ordered all NGOs to stop employing women, at risk of losing their license to work in the country.

The government did not explain whether the guideline includes foreign women who work for the organizations.

In the statement sent to NGOs, the ministry says it took the decision after receiving “complaints” that women who worked in these organizations did not respect the use of the Islamic headscarf.

In Afghanistan, women are required to cover their faces and entire bodies.

“If (the Taliban authorities) are not in a position to overturn this decision and find a solution to this problem, it will be very difficult to continue and provide humanitarian aid independently and fairly, because the participation of women is very important,” he told reporters. AFP the UN humanitarian coordinator for Afghanistan, Ramiz Alakbarov.

– Devastating impact –

“We don’t want to suspend aid immediately, because that would harm the Afghan people,” said Alakbarov, who highlighted a “devastating” impact on the country’s already deteriorating economy.

“We will discuss the matter with the authorities. We will insist that this change”, he reiterated.

The UN and cooperation agencies point out that more than half of the country’s 38 million inhabitants will need humanitarian aid during the severe winter.

Dozens of organizations work in remote regions of Afghanistan and many employ women. Several associations have warned that the ban will harm their activities.

“The ban will have an impact on all aspects of humanitarian work, as women have crucial roles in projects aimed at the country’s vulnerable female population,” a source from a foreign NGO told AFP.

In recent months, the Taliban movement, which returned to power in August 2021, has tightened the siege on women.

Less than a week ago they were banned from the country’s universities for “disrespect” to the dress code. And since March they have been banned from attending high schools.

Women have also been excluded from many government jobs and cannot travel without a male relative present. The Taliban also banned access to parks, gardens, gyms and public restrooms.

– “Hell for women” –

“The latest flagrant setback for girls’ and women’s rights will have far-reaching consequences for the delivery of children’s health, nutrition and education services,” tweeted UNICEF Regional Director George Laryea-Adjei.

A 27-year-old Afghan woman told AFP, on condition of anonymity, that she would start working this Sunday for a foreign NGO. But the dream ended after the new ban.

“The hard work I’ve done over the last few years in the field of education has been destroyed,” he said.

“But we are brave enough not to accept bans and fight for our rights,” he added.

Shabana, 24, an NGO worker in Kabul, also spoke about the move.

“We are 15 in my family and I am the only breadwinner. If I lose my job, my family will starve,” she said.

“While you celebrate the arrival of the New Year, Afghanistan has become a winter for women”, she summarized.

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