People in Need halts programmes in Afghanistan after Taliban bans female aid workers

In response to the Taliban‘s crackdown on women’s rights in Afghanistan, several international aid organisations, including the Czech NGO People in Need, have suspended their programmes in the country.

Last weekend the Afghan Ministry of the Economy issued an order that all female NGO employees are no longer allowed to work until further notice.

Among the organisations that have been impacted by this measure is the largest Czech human rights NGO: People in Need. Tomáš Kocián is responsible for the Middle Eastern region within People in Need.

„Currently, women make up around a third of the 140 employees that we have in Afghanistan. Right now, we have to let them stay at home or we would lose our registration which allows us to operate in the country. We will have to see how the situation develops in the coming days and weeks.”

Some of the female employees who have been suspended can still work from home and those that can’t still receive their salaries, he says. Nevertheless, many of the world’s leading NGOs such as Save the Children or the International Rescue Committee have decided to temporarily halt their programmes in the country in protest against the Taliban measure. People in Need is among them, says Mr Kocián.

“We have had to stop our educational programme for more than 5,000 children as well as programmes related to the revitalisation of regional infrastructure. This includes, for example, the reconstruction of houses for those people whose homes have been destroyed as a result of the conflict, so it’s certainly bad news for them.”

Photo: ArmyAmber,  Pixabay,  Pixabay License

The ban on female NGO workers is just the latest in a series of measures issued by the Taliban over the past several months that restrict women’s freedoms. A week ago, for example, the government suspended university education for all female students. Women and girls have also been banned from public parks or gardens.

By halting their programmes, the NGOs are hoping to persuade the Afghan government to roll back its decision, says Mr Kocián.

“We believe that this is only a temporary measure. The Taliban justified it by citing Islamic rules related to the clothing and separation of men and women in offices. It’s up to us now to explain, lobby and push for a change.”

Photo: 12019,  Pixabay,  Pixabay License

The NGOs believe that their hand is strong in their attempt to reverse the ban. As Mr Kocián explains, the country is currently very reliant on foreign aid support.

“Afghanistan is facing a major humanitarian crisis. More than 28 million people, two thirds of the population, are in need of some sort of support. We are there for the people and not for the Taliban, which is only causing problems for us.”

The unified position of the NGOs is not the only pressure that the Taliban regime is currently facing. On Tuesday, the United Nations Security Council denounced both the ban on women working for humanitarian aid groups as well as the suspension of female university students, stating that these restrictions “contradict the commitments made by the Taliban to the Afghan people as well as the expectations of the international community”.

Authors: Thomas McEnchroe , Petr Král , Zuzana Machálková
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