New York, USA, 25 December 2022 — The International Rescue Committee (IRC) is dismayed and disheartened by the latest Taliban edict to ban women from working for NGOs in Afghanistan.
The IRC has been working in Afghanistan since 1988. In the over 3 decades of our presence in Afghanistan, we have worked for the benefit of the Afghan people, having served millions of the most vulnerable across the country. Throughout these years, we have never had to cease delivering support.
The IRC currently operates in twelve provinces across Afghanistan in the areas of emergency response, health, education, livelihoods and other life-saving interventions. Our male and female staff work closely with rural and urban communities to identify needs, design and implement programming in line with cultural sensitivities and social norms.
Today, the IRC in Afghanistan employs over 8,000 people - over 3,000 of whom are women.
With Afghanistan in the midst of a worsening humanitarian crisis and economic collapse, humanitarian actors have been essential in saving lives in the country over the course of the past year. None of that would have been possible without female humanitarian workers. In the last year alone, restrictions on access to work for women have furthered Afghanistan’s failing economy, producing an economic loss of up to $1bn - about 5% of Afghanistan’s GDP.
The latest decree from the authorities barring Afghan women from working in national and international NGOs, following earlier decrees barring women from attending universities, vocational training, and private institutions will have lifelong impacts on the present and future of Afghanistan. The exclusion of women from humanitarian service delivery will have catastrophic consequences for the Afghan people because our services depend on women workers.
At a time when over 97% of the population is at risk of poverty, the IRC urges the authorities to take into consideration the grave humanitarian implications of this recent decision. The IRC is committed to working with national and international NGOs, civil society organisations, the UN, and all relevant stakeholders to ensure that the situation is resolved so that we are able to serve the Afghan people.
For IRC our ability to deliver services rely on female staff at all levels of our organisation. If we are not allowed to employ women, we are not able to deliver to those in need. Therefore, the IRC is currently suspending our services in Afghanistan.
The IRC began work in Afghanistan in 1988, and now works with thousands of villages across twelve provinces, with Afghans making up more than 99% of IRC staff in the country. As Afghanistan struggles to recover from ongoing conflict and natural disasters, the IRC: works with local communities to identify, plan and manage their own development projects, provides safe learning spaces in rural areas, community-based education, cash distribution provides uprooted families with tents, clean water, sanitation and other basic necessities, and helps people find livelihood opportunities as well as extensive resilience programming.