© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: An Afghan woman and a baby girl walk on the street in Kabul, Afghanistan, November 9, 2022. REUTERS/Ali Khara
By Michelle Nichols
United Nations (Reuters) – An international aid agency in Afghanistan hopes to have an interim deal within days to allow its female Afghan staff members to return to work in the southern province of Kandahar. birthplace of the Taliban and home of the supreme spiritual leader.
Norwegian Refugee Council general secretary Jan Egeland spoke to Reuters after arriving in Kabul on Wednesday from Kandahar, where he met key Taliban leaders.
“If we can get a temporary deal locally – which we promised in Kandahar – that’s something we can use in the rest of the country,” said Egeland, head of state. United Nations aid from 2003-2006, says.
The Taliban came to power in August 2021 when US-led forces withdrew after 20 years of war. Last month, the Taliban government began enforcing a ban on Afghan women from working for the United Nations after stopping women from working for aid groups in December. UN and aid officials say the mission orders came from the Taliban leaders in Kandahar.
The United Nations and aid groups have tried to create exemptions for women to provide aid, especially in terms of health and education. The Taliban government has promised since January a set of written guidelines that would allow aid groups to operate with female staff.
“Whenever the authorities issue new guidance, we will notify you,” said Abdulrahman Habib, a spokesman for the economy ministry that announced a ban on female workers last year.
Egeland said that when he complained that the guidelines were taking too long, officials in Kandahar proposed an interim agreement that could be agreed within days to allow Afghan women to return to work within days. offices and fields.
“When this happens in the supreme ruler’s province, that will be the basis for temporary arrangements elsewhere,” Egeland said. “I hope now we can also be the ones that open doors to other organizations. That’s what we’re looking for.”
Taliban officials said decisions about female aid workers were an “internal matter”.
The Taliban say they respect women’s rights according to their strict interpretation of Islamic law. They also tightened controls on women’s access to public life, banning women and girls from attending university and high school.
The top US aid official has warned that the people of Afghanistan are in for a “very difficult year ahead”, as donors grapple with the challenge of the Taliban’s crackdown on women and girls. , more crises around the world and less funding.
“We are suffering collateral damage here during the ongoing Cold War between the de facto rulers of Afghanistan and the people who left the country and left 40 million civilians behind,” Egeland said. Egeland said, noting that the NRC has 40% less funding this year than in 2022.
The United Nations says nearly three-quarters of Afghanistan’s 40 million people need humanitarian help, and it also warns that funding is dwindling. The $4.6 billion UN grant for 2023 is currently under 8% funding.