UAE envoy asks Taliban to lift restrictions on women and girls

UAE’s ambassador to United Nations, Lana Nusseibeh. Photo: UN.

UAE’s ambassador to United Nations, Lana Nusseibeh, on Thursday called on the Taliban to remove the restrictions it has imposed on women and girls in Afghanistan, saying it is “unacceptable” that girls are still not allowed to attend secondary schools in Afghanistan more than a year after the Taliban takeover.

“This is enabling gender apartheid,” Nusseibeh told the UN Security Council at an annual meeting. “We find ourselves still battling the misconceptions of women and girls as victims or survivors, but not agents of change.”

She said that the exclusion of women from public and social life in Afghanistan is yet another example of how violence against women and girls can take numerous forms.

“Now more than ever, action is the missing piece,” she said. “We need to stop talking about empowering women and just give them power.”

The UAE envoy said that women “are more resilient against violence” if they participate in the economy.

“Their voices need to be heard and amplified in school, with their classmates and in all the other facets of public life where they belong,” she said. “Let’s give them the digital tools to compete in the same world as men and boys.”

Secondary schools are closed for girls in Afghanistan over the past 14 months under the Taliban rule. Figures show that at least 1.1 million girls are deprived of schooling after the Taliban decided to close secondary schools for girls in the country.

At the same event, Sima Bahous, the executive director of UN Women, said there is a significant lack of funding for women’s organizations in conflict-affected countries, decreasing from $181 million in 2019 to $150m in 2020.

“In Afghanistan in 2022, 77 percent of women’s civil society organizations have not received any funding and are no longer running programs,” Bahous said.

Addressing a religious event in Turkey on Oct. 15, Taliban chief spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said that the reopening of schools for all girls in Afghanistan is “certain.”

“Secondary schools for girls will definitely be opened and we are trying to adjust curriculum, provide transportation and create a separate education system for them,” said Mujahid.

The closure of girls’ schools has been criticized at national and international levels, but the Taliban has said it will introduce a new mechanism for reopening schools for girls.