NRC providing ID-cards, Tazkira ID, to Afghan women in Kandahar in 2020.
NRC providing ID-cards, Tazkira ID, to Afghan women in Kandahar in 2020. Photo: Enayatullah Azad/NRC

Afghanistan: Taliban ban on female workers halts humanitarian work

Roald Høvring|Published 10. Jan 2023
The Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) has been forced to stop its activities in Afghanistan due to a ban on female staff, prohibiting us from reaching women and female-headed households.

A Taliban decree banning female staff from working has forced several humanitarian organisations to stop their activities across Afghanistan.

“We simply cannot function without our female staff; they form a vital part of our humanitarian response and make up approximately one third our work force. We call for the Taliban authorities to immediately reverse this decision for the sake of the entire population,” says Jan Egeland, Secretary General at NRC.

NRC received no warning about the ban and no evidence has been presented about our alleged lack of compliance with cultural norms.

“We have always been willing and able to work within the parameters of religious values and cultural norms, and I have high hopes that the authorities will help us understand what conditions need to be in place to allow women to return to work.”

A vital part of our humanitarian response

Many households across the country are female-headed households, who stand to lose access to humanitarian assistance all together with these changes.

It is extremely difficult and unsafe for aid to reach women and children without the presence of female staff, particularly in highly conservative communities.

“Working with male only teams in situations of desperate human suffering is not a safe or effective way for extremely vulnerable women and girls to receive our assistance and it is a line we cannot cross. Without women driving our response, humanitarian organisations would not have jointly reached millions of Afghans in need since August 2021.”

Another blow for women in Afghanistan

Egeland describes the ban as another blow for women in Afghanistan.

“This is yet another example of how women in Afghanistan are denied their rights by those in power. Together with limitations on education for women and girls, these decisions are crushing the dreams of women throughout the country.”

Beyond the impact on delivery of lifesaving assistance, this will affect thousands of jobs in the midst of an enormous economic crisis.

“It is hard to imagine how difficult this must be for our female staff, facing such sudden professional and financial uncertainty, particularly for those who are the breadwinners in their family.”

Ready to restart

NRC requires unimpeded access for both female and male staff members to reach all the affected people in need.

“This is non-negotiable for us and is an utmost priority for NRC, and as soon as we are allowed to work again, we will restart our aid programmes,” says Egeland.