Media Centre - Opinion Piece - 4 January 2023

Plan International Australia Statement on women in NGO’s in Afghanistan no longer able to work

Girls studying in a classroom in Afghanistan

Plan International Australia condemns the ban imposed on local and international non-governmental organisations (NGOs) by the de facto authorities in Afghanistan, preventing women from working. This latest blow to women’s freedoms, issued on 24 December 2022, came only three days after the Taliban-run administration banned female students from attending university – meaning sixth grade is now the highest level of education available for girls in Afghanistan.

In a country where women and girls are barred from public spaces, live far from essential services and cannot travel without a male relative, female NGO staff are critical to an effective humanitarian response.

Women working in NGOs are particularly a lifeline for women and children in rural and remote areas; and for women and girls fleeing gender-based violence. Over half of women and girls (50.8%) in Afghanistan have experienced physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence and almost one-third (28.3%) were married before their 18th birthday (UN Women Global Database on Violence against Women – Afghanistan).

Women in NGOs provide these women and girls with essential, life-saving services. Women and girls’ access to all forms of education ensures that there are qualified female professionals available to continue delivering these services in a gender-sensitive manner, nationwide, year after year.

Plan International Australia calls for an immediate end to the collective punishment of the women and girls of Afghanistan, which is grounded solely in harmful and discriminatory gender norms and practices, and an immediate restoration of women’s equal rights and freedoms as guaranteed them under the international human rights framework – including the UN CEDAW, which Afghanistan ratified in 2003; the UN CRC, ratified in 1994; the UN ICCPR, ratified in 1983; and the UN ICESCR, ratified in 1983 (Source: UN Treaty Body Database).

We stand in solidarity with the women and children of Afghanistan and commend the male students and professors who have joined protests against the ban on women’s access to higher education. We call on the de facto authorities to allow women and girls in Afghanistan to resume their studies and to reinstate women NGO staff, so that they can continue their life-saving work.

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Claire Knox

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