Taliban-imposed limits on women working as aid workers are holding up the delivery of badly needed assistance in much of Afghanistan, Human Rights Watch says.
In the majority of the country’s provinces, women aid workers are only able to work if they are accompanied by a male family member, the group says. Only three of the country’s 34 provinces allow women aid workers to work unconditionally.
Mandating an escort effectively makes it impossible for most women to work, the rights group says.
“The Taliban’s severe restrictions on women aid workers are preventing desperately needed lifesaving aid from reaching Afghans, especially women, girls, and women-headed households,” said Heather Barr, associate women’s rights director at Human Rights Watch.
“Permitting women aid workers to do their jobs unfettered is not a matter of agencies or donors placing conditions on humanitarian assistance, but an operational necessity for delivering that assistance.”
Women who are able to work are often restricted to “health and education programs,” Human Rights Watch said. In an office setting, men and women are segregated, effectively leaving women unable to provide input when decisions are made.
Another problem, according to the group, is that rules covering women aid workers are seldom laid out in writing. The group said only five provinces have provided rules in written form. “The rest of the agreements allowing women aid workers are oral,” the group said.
“The Taliban should immediately permit all aid workers, women and men, to fully do their jobs, or they will be placing even more people at risk,” Barr said.
When the Taliban last held power, women could not leave their homes unaccompanied, and girls could not receive an education.