UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) head Ramiz Alakbarov Monday called for a reversal of the decision to ban women from domestic and international NGO humanitarian jobs, in a meeting with Economy Minister Qari Din Mohammad Hanif in Kabul.
On Saturday, the Minister of Economy (MoE) issued a directive prohibiting domestic and international non-governmental organizations (NGOs) from allowing female staff members to work in their organisations. Economy Minister Hanif said that the ban was introduced owing to the series of allegations of non-compliance in wearing the Islamic headscarf (hijab) by the NGO female employees, thereby violating Sharia law.
This decision has prompted multiple organizations to suspend operations in Afghanistan until they gain some clarity on the directive. A joint statement by the Norwegian Refugee Council, Save the Children and CARE International, said that they “cannot effectively reach children, women and men in desperate need in Afghanistan without our female staff.” A spokesman for the Secretary-General of Kabul, Stéphane Dujarric, shared his deep concern and stated that this “decision will undermine the work of numerous organizations working across the country helping those most vulnerable, especially women and girls.”
The International Rescue Committee (IRC) suspended their operations because the organisation is highly dependent on female employees. IRC stated that:
The latest decree from the authorities barring Afghan women from working in national and international NGOs, following earlier decrees barring women from attending universities, vocational training, and private institutions will have lifelong impacts on the present and future of Afghanistan. The exclusion of women from humanitarian service delivery will have catastrophic consequences for the Afghan people because our services depend on women workers.
The Taliban’s decision to ban women from domestic and international NGO jobs comes after the Taliban Ministry of Higher Education issued a blanket ban on female students from attending universities in Afghanistan. Human Rights Watch reported that since the Taliban took over Afghanistan in August 2021, secondary schools have reopened only to boys, and women have been prohibited from working in certain sectors, like humanitarian aid and government jobs.
Last week, the Secretary General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan, Roza Otunbayeva, delivered a brief to the Security Council, highlighting the suppression of opposing voices in Taliban rule, and strict restrictions on women from visiting most public parks, bath houses, and gymnasiums. Otunbayea said that women’s social space is now being restricted as much as their political space.