Civil society organizations working in Afghanistan face difficulties in hiring Afghan women staff. The UN says the psychosocial costs of denial of rights to women are incalculable, and women are collectively being written out of society in a way that is unique in the world.
Aid agencies are reporting an increase in demands by Afghanistan’s Taliban authorities for data and information regarding staffing contracts, say UN officials working in the war-torn country.
The information sought about staffing contracts is mainly to monitor the presence of women at the workplace, besides the need to identify people the Taliban considers inimical to them.
Non-governmental organizations working in the country face continued difficulties in trying to hire Afghan women staff for certain functions. There are also enquiries on the budgets of various organisations, including bilateral and UN organisations working in the country, according to the UN’s Mission in Afghanistan, UNAMA.
One wing of the government that stands out is the Ministry for the Propagation of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice that furthers the Taliban’s orthodox beliefs, essentially emphasising that women confine themselves to their domestic chores, aid agencies say.
“There are more instances of interference today than in previous months, most of which are resolved through engagement with the relevant de facto authorities,” Martin Griffiths, the UN Humanitarian Coordinator told ambassadors at a briefing to the UN Security Council on Thursday.
Yet, Griffiths voiced the frustrations of aid agencies when he said, “But for every issue that is resolved, another one emerges, sometimes in the same location with the same departments.”
“And there is now a much more palpable frustration felt by aid organizations, local communities and local authorities.”
He said that although humanitarians are reaching record numbers, there is still “a long hill to climb.”
Inclusion and engagement
The UNMA says that national and local authorities are increasingly seeking to play a role in the selection of beneficiaries. They are also channelling assistance to people on their own priority lists, thus contravening promises made to UN officials.
Addressing the Security Council on the humanitarian response, Ramiz Alakbarov, Acting Special Representative at the UNAMA highlighted how aid partners have reached some 20 million Afghans between January and April this year alone, including nearly 250,000 returnees and some 95,000 people affected by floods and weather-related events.
However, the humanitarian crisis persists, and sustained support will be needed through next year, he said.
Both UN officials spoke of plans seeking to promote political consultation and inclusion in the coming month, while continuing engagement with the country’s de facto authorities.
“Even as the international community and the Taliban remain far apart” on the question of human rights, specifically for women – and political rights, “there are some areas where we can do better to improve the lives of Afghans, as well as advance on issues of common concern such as counter-narcotics and mine action.”
Squeeze on human rights
Alakbarov reported that the human rights situation in Afghanistan remains precarious.
UNAMA continues to receive credible allegations of killings, ill-treatment and other violations targeting individuals associated with the former government. This is despite the adoption of a general amnesty and repeated assurances by Taliban leaders that the UN body is being respected.
Credible allegations of violations against persons accused of affiliation with the National Resistance Front and the ISIL-KP terrorist organisation have also been reported.
“The de facto authorities have increasingly restricted the exercise of basic human rights, such as freedom of peaceful assembly, freedom of opinion and expression, quelling dissent and restricting civic space in the country,” he said.
Furthermore, restrictions particularly target women and girls, such as the ban on secondary schooling for girls, and the decree ordering women to wear face coverings.
“The costs to the economy of these policies is immense,” Alakbarov said. “The psychosocial costs of being denied education, for example, are incalculable, and women are collectively being written out of society in a way that is unique in the world.”
Last December, the Security Council adopted a resolution clearing the path for aid to reach Afghans, while preventing funds from falling into the hands of the Taliban, which has been critical to ensuring operations can continue.