According to the UN, the Taliban in Afghanistan will establish new regulations for women working in humanitarian aid

On January 18, 2023, in the Afghan province of Badakhshan, children go to fetch water during a chilly winter day

A senior UN official has received information from Taliban ministers stating that they intend to create new regulations allowing Afghan women to participate in some humanitarian missions.

Even if the order issued by the Taliban last month prohibiting Afghan women from working for NGOs is not overturned, Martin Griffiths told the BBC that he had received "encouraging responses" from a variety of Taliban ministers during talks in Kabul.

There are worries that the ban will jeopardize critical life-saving humanitarian operations in the country because Afghan women are essential in delivering aid.

Mr. Griffiths, the UN's Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, informed me of this in Kabul: "It's important to keep in mind that this year, Afghanistan is the largest humanitarian aid programme in the world ever.

The math assistance is mind-boggling. More than half of Afghanistan's population, or 28 million people, will be attempted to be reached this year, including six million people who, according to Mr. Griffiths, are "knocking on famine's door.".

Afghanistan has experienced its coldest winter in ten years, and it has been brutal. Over 126 Afghans have died in the last two weeks due to exposure to toxic gas heater fumes, hypothermia, or freezing temperatures.

A people who already live dangerously on the edge are hit by winter's icy blast. It is also of epic proportions to provide aid to Afghanistan. .

We met one family in a mud-and-straw house that was precariously perched on a snow-covered hill in Parwan province, north of Kabul, and whose complaints were as scathing as the weather.

Mother Qamar Gul complained that "no aid agencies visit us here" as the family huddled around a "sandali," a traditional charcoal heater that Afghans have used for centuries to stay warm. "No one from the previous administration or the Taliban government arrived. ".

Mother Qamrgul
No aid organizations, according to Qamar Gul, visit her family's home in the province of Parwan.

This week, Mr. Griffiths held back-to-back meetings with senior Taliban government leaders in Kabul about the new edict prohibiting Afghan women from working with aid organizations. This was taking place as the government's military helicopters struggled to reach the remotest communities completely cut off by enormous snowbanks and blinding storms. .

When Mr. Griffiths and I meet at the UN's expansive compound at the conclusion of his mission, he emphasizes that "if women do not work in humanitarian operations, we do not reach, we do not count, the women and girls we need to listen to.". Women and girls are the most vulnerable participants in all humanitarian operations worldwide. " .

He was cautious but clear about the outcomes of his crucial mission as a senior aid official with decades of experience in challenging environments, including Afghanistan. .

He told the Taliban ministers he had met, "I think they're listening, and they told me they will be releasing new guidelines in due course, which I hope will help us reinforce the role of women. " .

Following Amina Mohammed, the UN's second-in-command, who made a quick trip there last week, Mr. Griffiths's visit underscores the UN's growing concern over a number of Taliban edicts that threaten to "erase women from public life." Ms. Mohammed is a British-Nigerian Muslim woman.

She described her conversations with us as "very tough.". Some meetings were so openly discussed that time almost ran out. The willingness to participate, she claimed, had given her hope.

As a representative of the Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC), the UN's highest level forum for coordinating humanitarian aid, Mr. Griffiths' task has been to examine minute details in a variety of crucial fields, including agriculture, sanitation, and food distribution.

Nobody can reasonably expect the ban, which was announced last month, to be lifted. But there appear to be numerous flaws in it.

Mr. Griffiths drew attention to "a recurring pattern of Taliban leaders presenting us with exceptions, exemptions, and authorizations for women to work.". So far, crucial fields where women's participation is crucial, like health and community education, have received the all-clear.

Martin Griffiths, UN Under-Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief
Since the Taliban swept to power in 2021, Martin Griffiths of the UN noted that access for humanitarian aid has improved noticeably.

However, it is also evident that even the most conservative Taliban leaders are opposed to changing.

The head of the State Ministry for Disaster Management, a white-bearded cleric, claims that because men are already helping with the rescue efforts, women are not required to join them. In his office, Mullah Mohammad Abbas Akhund, the acting minister, charged that the UN and other aid organizations were speaking "against our religious beliefs.".

Mr. Griffith responded firmly, "I'm sorry, I don't agree," pointing out that the UN and other aid organizations had been operating in Afghanistan for decades. "We respect Afghan traditions and laws, just as we do in every nation where we operate. ".

This arduous procedure of dealing with an authority headed by the most senior, most strict Taliban leaders has slowed the pace of providing urgently needed relief. Senior leaders who disagree with orders are powerless to change them.

But Mr. Griffiths noted that since the Taliban seized control in 2021, humanitarian access has significantly improved. Areas that had previously been isolated due to Taliban attack threats or US-led military operations were now much easier to access. In remote areas last winter, including the central highlands of Ghor, last-minute humanitarian interventions saved families from starvation.

Taliban officials frequently emphasize this. Amir Khan Muttaqi, the temporary minister of foreign affairs, urged Mr. Griffiths to discuss their "achievements and opportunities.". as opposed to criticism and shortcomings.

However, the window for an immediate relief effort is closing as the worst of winter draws near. Many humanitarian organizations that heavily rely on their Afghan female staff have already ceased operations.

The UN's top aid official put it best when he said, "I cannot think of an international priority as high as this one to keep this extraordinarily important massive programme alive."

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