Statement by Achim Steiner, UNDP Administrator, on current situation faced by women in Afghanistan

December 29, 2022

I am deeply concerned for the future of Afghanistan, with reports of the Taliban de facto authorities banning women from working for national and international non-governmental organizations. Together with the limits imposed on girls’ and women’s education, these practices represent an increasing erosion for the respect of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the country.

Denying women and girls these fundamental rights will also accelerate Afghanistan’s backslide into extreme poverty and keep it in a state of economic loss and social imbalance that could take decades to reverse.

I echo the message of the UN Secretary-General that this reported ban will undermine the work of all organizations, including the support provided through the United Nations, in helping the most vulnerable communities across the country.

Women’s work in different fields, including those supported by national and international organizations, accounts, each year, for over a billion dollars of income to households across Afghanistan. Removing women from the public sphere of education and livelihoods could result in an immediate and significant loss to millions of Afghans in poor households that are already facing severe hardships.

Curtailing women’s rights to participate in education and employment, including their exclusion from tertiary education and from the right to work with organizations delivering essential services, comes at a high cost to the stability and progress of the Afghan economy and the whole of society.

UNDP is delivering lifesaving services and livelihoods support to allow highly vulnerable Afghan communities, and women in particular, to earn an income with dignity, and keep their families as healthy and safe as possible. Women have been the backbone of Afghan local economies through the years, and they continue to provide a household safety net that is essential during economic flux and uncertainty. Hard won, albeit small, development gains that have kept communities alive and safe, must not be destroyed.

We join the UN Secretary-General in calling for the return of women and girls to schools and universities, and for women to continue to contribute to the economy and wellbeing of their communities and country. Without this, there can be no progress.