Several groups providing aid in Afghanistan suspended operations after the Taliban decided that women could no longer work for non-governmental organizations with immediate effect.

On December 24, the Taliban says the prohibition of female employees was because some had not adhered to the Taliban interpretation of the Islamic dress code for women.

Save The Children, CARE and the Norwegian Refugee Council all said they were unable to work effectively with women and children without their female staff in place.

In a joint statement, the trio of organizations said: “Without the women leading our response, we would not have jointly reached millions of Afghans in need since August 2021.

“Beyond the impact on the provision of life-saving assistance, this will affect thousands of jobs in the midst of a huge economic crisis.

“While we obtain clarification on this announcement, we are suspending our programs, demanding that men and women can equally continue our lifesaving assistance in Afghanistan.”

the talibanThe economy ministry said it had received “serious complaints” about female staff not wearing the “correct” headscarf or hijab.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said he was deeply troubled by the Taliban’s decision, adding: “The United Nations and its partners, including national and international non-governmental organizations, are helping more than 28 million Afghans who depend on humanitarian aid to survive.”

It was unclear whether the ban, announced in a letter and confirmed by the economy ministry, also applied to foreign women or those working for the United Nations, which has a significant presence in the country.

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Afghan women urge the world to help

The Economy Ministry said the ban applies to Afghanistanthe coordination body of UN humanitarian organizations, known as ACBAR, which does not include the UN.

However, the UN engages NGOs that are part of ACBAR in Afghanistan to carry out its humanitarian work.

The UN said it hoped to meet with the Taliban to clarify the issue. Ramiz Alakbarov, his deputy special representative for Afghanistan and humanitarian coordinator, added that most of his work in the country was done by NGOs.

He said: “Many of our programs will be affected and we will not be able to implement them because unless we have the participation of female staff in the assessment of humanitarian needs, the identification of beneficiaries, the provision of aid and the distribution of aid – then we will not be able to implement them.”

The ban came days after Afghan women were stopped going to college by the Taliban, a move that attracted international condemnation.

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