'We are pretty much alone here now' NGO chief urges Taliban to let Afghan women work

The head of the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) visited Kabul this week to convince Taliban officials to reverse a ban on Afghan women working with aid agencies.

Jan Egeland told Euronews that the ban, which was announced at the end of December, is preventing NGOs from reaching parts of the population.

“Without our female staff, we're not able to reach women, widows, single mothers with children, and other females who are in very difficult situations,” Egeland said. “It is definitely against the values of the traditions in many regions for males to assist women, who are not from their family directly”.

The NRC has nearly 500 women employees working in areas like food security, education, legal assistance, water and sanitation across remote areas of Afghanistan.

To protest against the ban on Afghan women aid workers, many NGOs including the NRC have suspended operations in Afghanistan.

Egeland said he told Taliban leaders that work would not resume until female employees were allowed back.

He also called on the international community to do more to pressure on the Taliban to make changes.

“Where is the international community that said the women and children of Afghanistan were their number one priority?” he asked. “I’d like them to engage and help us. We are pretty much alone here now.”

The Taliban seized power in August 2021, promising a softer version of their brutal 1996-2001 rule that was infamous for human rights abuses.

But they have since pushed women out of almost all areas of public life, banning them from secondary and higher education, public sector work and visiting parks and baths.

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