Aid chief urges Taliban to give time frame on reversing ban on women NGO staff

NRC chief Jan Egeland in Kabul. Photo: Jan Egeland’s Twitter.

Jan Egeland, head of the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), who is visiting Afghanistan, said on Wednesday that he is back in the country after five months but that restrictions on women have still not been lifted.

He said he visited Kandahar, where he urged Taliban leaders “to give us a timeframe for when all our female colleagues can resume work for those in need.”

“Only women can reach women. We will not work with men only,” he reiterated in a series of tweets on Wednesday.

Taliban leaders in Kandahar said “guidelines” that will allow women back to work and resume girls’ education are “nearly completed,” Egeland said.

“We urged immediate breakthrough as time is running out: funding and rations are cut and suffering grows,” he added. “We neither can, nor will work with males only.”

He said that Taliban de facto authorities also said they were willing to find “interim solutions” that would restart work with women, for women, to meet the growing crisis in a country with over 28 million people in urgent need of aid.

Egeland also met with Pakistan’s ambassador in Kabul Ubaid-ur-Rehman Nizamani.

Referring to his meeting with Nizamani, he said there is an urgent need for political talks in and around Afghanistan to end the stalemate.

“In Kabul, we urge Pakistan and other Islamic Embassies to redouble efforts to end the ban on female work in humanitarian groups and to enable girls’ education,” he said.

Western diplomats are slow to return to Kabul to join our efforts, so Islamic countries must and can take the lead, he said.

Taliban has repeatedly vowed to ensure the return of women aid workers to their offices and girls to secondary schools, but no step has been made on this so far.