UN humanitarian chief Martin Griffiths and the heads of the programs Care International, Save the Children US and UNICEF are in Afghanistan this week, following a visit by a senior UN delegation last week that tried to convince the Taliban to end their crackdown on women and girls, including the ban on Afghan women from working for national and global humanitarian organizations.
Speaking from Kabul, Griffiths said the focus of the visit was to help the Taliban understand the critical importance of getting relief operations underway and allowing women to work there. The delegation’s message was simple, he said, that the ban makes their work more difficult.
“What I have heard from everyone I have met is that they understood the need and right of Afghan women to work and that they will be working on a set of guidelines that we will see appear in due course that will respond to those requirements,” Griffiths said.
Griffiths and the delegation did not travel to Kandahar, the birthplace of the Taliban movement and where the ban was enacted on the orders of retired Taliban Supreme Leader Hibatullah Akhundzdaza.
Griffiths acknowledged Akhundzada’s top status, but said there are many important voices among Taliban officials from around the country.
“I don’t think it’s easy to ask one man to take responsibility and change an edict,” he said. “There is a collective responsibility for this edict and I hope we build a collective will to offset the ban.”
Janti Soeripto of Save the Children, who is part of the visiting delegation, said there were meetings with eight ministries in two days and that some of the Taliban understood the need to lift the ban better than others.
“There is resistance, they don’t want to be seen making a U-turn,” she said. “If people don’t see the consequences as viscerally as we see them, people will feel less inclined.”