People in Need resumes activities and negotiates the full and safe return to work for female Afghan NGO workersPublished: Mar 2, 2023 Reading time: 3 minutes
On December 24, 2022, the de facto Taliban authorities announced that Afghan women were banned from working for non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in Afghanistan. Following the ban, People in Need (PIN), alongside other organizations, immediately suspended its activities. "Without women, we would not have reached tens of thousands of Afghans in need. It is not possible to carry out an effective and principled humanitarian response if women are prevented from working," explains Tomáš Kocian, PIN’s Regional Director for the Middle East.
PIN has since engaged in efforts both in and outside of Afghanistan to advocate for the reversal of the ban on female NGO workers. “We have tried to achieve a coordinated approach as part of the wider humanitarian community and have also sought solutions and arrangements bilaterally through the engagement and negotiations with Afghanistan's de facto authorities to have female workers back at work again,” continues Lenka Manja Filípek, PIN’s Country Director for Afghanistan.
In anticipation of new guidelines for local and international NGOs – which should, according to the de facto authorities, allow women to return to work – PIN along with other organizations, has resumed working in specific sectors and areas, where previous exemptions or localized arrangements exist and access to project sites and/or direct assistance to female beneficiaries is ensured. “The resumption is based on both the recognition of the extremely dire needs and NGOs’ commitment to provide life-saving humanitarian assistance, as well as the understanding that these guidelines will allow women to fully return to work. In the interim, PIN is [reinstating] female aid workers in places where exemptions or localized arrangements have been secured,” explains Tomáš Kocian.
The humanitarian community at large, including the UN, various donors, and international and local NGOs, continue to seek a long-term solution, essentially a complete reverse of the ban on female NGO workers. Without female staff, women and girls cannot be assisted, which will continue to have a devastating humanitarian impact in the future, as well as on the current humanitarian crisis.
The Humanitarian Situation in Afghanistan
According to the latest Humanitarian Needs Overview issued in January 2023, a staggering 28.3 million people (two-thirds of Afghanistan’s population) will need urgent humanitarian assistance in order to survive. While in previous years humanitarian needs were largely driven by conflict, the key drivers of humanitarian needs in 2023 are multidimensional: drought, floods, climate change, protection threats, and the socioeconomic crisis (particularly for women and girls) Within this reality, 17 million people will acute hunger in 2023, including 6 million people at emergency levels of food insecurity, one step away from famine – one of the highest figures worldwide.
People in Need in AfghanistanPeople in Need opened its Afghanistan mission in 2001. Over the last 22 years, it has helped hundreds of thousands of Afghans secure food, build and repair homes, schools and clinics, as well as establish and rehabilitate essential infrastructure such as roads, electricity and water mains. While the central focus of the current response is emergency assistance across Food Security & Livelihoods, Education-in-Emergencies (EiE), Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) and Shelter sectors, PIN looks to implement more sustainable programming going forward, including market systems development and natural resource management interventions to provide long-term solutions to the multitude of challenges facing Afghanistan today.