KABUL: A senior UN official has urged Afghanistan’s Taliban administration to reverse a ban on female aid workers that charities fear could make winter hardship worse.
The administration on Saturday ordered all local and foreign non-governmental organizations (NGOs) not to let female staff work until further notice. He said the move, which was condemned around the world, was justified because some women did not adhere to the Taliban interpretation of the Islamic dress code for women.
“Millions of Afghans are in need of humanitarian assistance and breaking down barriers is vital,” MANUA said in the statement, adding that its acting chief and humanitarian coordinator Ramiz Alakbarov had met with the Minister of the Economy Mohammad Hanif.
Directives prohibiting women from working in NGOs came from Hanif’s ministry. The orders do not apply directly to the United Nations, but many of its programs are carried out by NGOs subject to the order.
Four major global NGOs, whose humanitarian efforts have reached millions of Afghans, have already announced they are suspending operations on Sunday. Other smaller NGOs have also announced suspensions, including UK-based Islamic Relief Worldwide.
NGOs said they were unable to run their programs without female staff. More than half of the population depends on humanitarian aid, according to aid agencies. Basic aid becomes more critical during the mountainous nation’s harsh winter.
Two spokesmen for the Taliban administration did not respond to questions from Reuters about the suspension of humanitarian programs.
NGOs are also a key source of employment for tens of thousands of Afghans, especially women, as the local economy has collapsed following the withdrawal of US-led foreign forces and the Taliban takeover last year.
One such employee, a 27-year-old aid worker in western Afghanistan who asked for her identity to be withheld because she feared reprisals, told Reuters her NGO closed its office on Saturday and that she couldn’t go to work.
The NGO, funded by a Western country, has worked with women in the agricultural sector, helping them to establish sustainable incomes.
She said she fears the loss of her job will have a huge impact on her family as she is a single woman and the sole breadwinner.
Her father is dead and her mother is a housewife, she said, adding that she supports four sisters, three of whom are university students who cannot complete their studies since the Taliban administration took over. banned women from going to university last week.

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