US, UK and EU among countries seeking end to Taliban ban on women aid workers

File photo.

Foreign ministries of 12 countries as well as the United Nations and European Union envoys in a joint statement called on the Taliban to lift the ban on women employees at non-governmental organizations, saying the decision puts at risk millions of lives in Afghanistan.

The foreign ministers of Australia, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Norway, Switzerland, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, and the United States and the High Representative of the European Union in a joint statement said they are gravely concerned that the Taliban’s “reckless and dangerous” order barring female employees of national and international non-governmental organizations (NGOs) from the workplace puts at risk millions of Afghans who depend on humanitarian assistance for their survival.

“We call on the Taliban to urgently reverse this decision,” the statement said.

The statement said that women are absolutely central to humanitarian and basic needs operations.

Unless they participate in aid delivery in Afghanistan, NGOs will be unable to reach the country’s most vulnerable people to provide food, medicine, winterization, and other materials and services they need to live, the statement added.

The foreign ministries said that this would also affect the humanitarian assistance provided by international organizations, as international organizations utilize NGOs to deliver such materials and services.

They added that the Taliban continue to demonstrate their contempt for the rights, freedoms, and welfare of the Afghan people, particularly women and girls, and their disinterest in normal relations with the international community.

“We support the Afghan people’s calls for girls and women to return to work, school, and university, and for women to continue to play essential roles in humanitarian and basic needs assistance delivery, and we urge the Taliban to respect the political, economic, social, and cultural rights of women and girls in Afghanistan,” the foreign ministries said.

They added that they are in close contact with the United Nations, who are urging, also on behalf of all international donors, that the Taliban reverse this decision immediately.

“This would avoid any disruption and allow the continuation of all humanitarian operations of international and national NGOs,” the foreign ministries concluded.

Taliban announced on Dec. 24 that all NGOs, national and international, have been asked to suspend their female employees until the next announcement by the group. The decision triggered global reactions.