Taliban restricting female aid workers in Afghanistan: HRW

Taliban restricting female aid workers in poverty-hit Afghanistan , HRW says
2 min read
04 November, 2021
Only three of Afghanistan's 34 provinces have provided written agreements unconditionally allowing women aid workers to do their job, according to the United Nations
Women and girls in Afghanistan are being cut off from humanitarian assistance as female aid workers have only limited access [Getty]

The Taliban is putting heavy restrictions on female aid workers in Afghanistan, further endangering women and girls who desperately need humanitarian assistance, a new Human Rights Watch (HRW) report has found.

The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) found that, as of 28 October, Taliban officials from only three of 34 provinces provided written agreements unconditionally allowing women aid workers to do their job, HRW said.

This means that in most of the country, female aid workers have only limited access.

“The Taliban’s severe restrictions on women aid workers are preventing desperately needed lifesaving aid from reaching Afghans, especially women, girls, and women-headed households,” said Heather Barr, associate women’s rights director at HRW.

“Permitting women aid workers to do their jobs unfettered is not a matter of agencies or donors placing conditions on humanitarian assistance, but an operational necessity for delivering that assistance.”

MENA
Live Story

The Taliban’s new gender-segregation policies mean that women who require support can often only get it from female aid workers.

But in Badghis province, the Taliban is not allowing women aid workers at all, HRW said. In Bamiyan and Daikundi, the Taliban said female aid workers can only assess people’s needs but cannot deliver aid.

In 16 other provinces, the Taliban decreed that female aid workers must be accompanied by a male chaperone (mahram) when outside the office.

The Taliban has also restricted the type of aid work women can do. In 11 provinces, female aid workers can only work in health and education programs.

“Taliban leaders have been demanding that donors address the unfolding crisis by unlocking aid funding for Afghanistan, but the Taliban’s misogynistic policies are blocking aid from those needing it most,” Barr said.

“The Taliban should immediately permit all aid workers, women and men, to fully do their jobs, or they will be placing even more people at risk.”

International donors have held back billions of dollars in assistance for Afghanistan's aid-dependent economy since the Taliban took over the country in mid-August.

The World Food Programme is feeding four million people in Afghanistan now, but the UN predicts that because of the dire winter conditions and the economic collapse it is going to have to provide food to triple that number.