UN Ambassador says ‘progress’ has been made on Afghan women’s rights | News

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A UN delegation, which held talks with senior Taliban officials in Afghanistan, has made progress on women’s rights, UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed told Al Jazeera on Saturday, warning that much remains to be achieved. yet.

The high-level meeting earlier this week comes amid widespread criticism of the ruling Taliban for banning women from universities and NGOs last month. Millions of high school girls have already been confined to their homes as schools remain closed. The Taliban have gone back on their promises on women’s rights and media freedom since coming to power in August 2021 after the fall of the Western-backed government.

“There has been some progress. Some exemptions have been given to the editors who have been covering the health sector,” said Mohammed, who headed the delegation, referring to the resumption of work with the three NGOs. last week.

“I think that is because the international community, and especially the partners who are funding this, were able to understand the impact and the impact of services show woman-to-woman, especially childbirth,” she said.

Afghan women chant slogans during a protest against a ban on university education for women, in Kabul, Afghanistan [File: AP Photo]

It wasn’t enough, she said, saying it was just the beginning. “We have opened a crack and we hope that through the reversals we can finally get to a point where you neutralize these edits and women are back in school and girls and of course in the place- work.”

The 61-year-old UN diplomat said his delegation met members of the cabinet, including the foreign minister, deputy prime minister and minister for refugees and returnees.

The group also met with the governor of Kandahar, as well as the Shura (leadership council) which is responsible for making many important decisions in the country.

“I have always been very clear that I am going there as an opportunity to hear the voices of Afghan women. We heard from young women who said, ‘We don’t need your voice, what we need is for you to raise ours,'” Mohammed told Al Jazeera in an interview.

“I was very focused on spreading those messages.”

‘It’s important to have a conversation’

Mohammed, the UN’s top female official, described the current laws on women’s education and the workplace as an “aberration” to the teachings of Islam but stressed the need to deal with the Taliban.

“It’s very important to go in there and try to have a conversation with them, and they did,” she said.

“What we saw was an understanding… of how important it was to girls’ rights and women’s rights in education. They all didn’t … they didn’t push back on that. But what they said… is that it is a work in progress and they are going to come back to us with the new framework around which they would protect women who would have access to education and also the workplace,” said Mohammed, the first. The UN Muslim Under-Secretary-General said.

Last week, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres denounced the “systematic and unprecedented attacks on the rights of women and girls”, which he said “create apartheid based on gender”.

Abdul Qahar Balkhi, spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Taliban, said that some NGOs were trying to create what he called ‘social change’ in Afghanistan.

But he says that the Taliban allows groups to operate if they are in line with the country’s values.

Those NGOs who were committed to “the main principle of NGO work [such as] impartiality and neutrality” exemptions have been granted in some areas, including health, Balkhi told Al Jazeera on Saturday.

Mohammed, who was the minister of environment in the Nigerian government, before her visit to Kabul, contacted the 57-member Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), which expressed concern about restrictions on women.

The OIC, the organization of Muslim countries, issued a statement saying that what is happening in Afghanistan is against the Holy Quran and Islam.

In addition, Mohammed said she was “surprised” by the Taliban’s “need and desire to be recognized”.

So far, no country in the world has recognized the Taliban-led government since they came to power 17 months ago weeks before the withdrawal of US-led foreign forces after 20 years of war and occupation.

Western countries and others have asked the group to lift restrictions on women’s rights and make the government more representative.

When asked if the UN would recognize the group, Mohammed, the UN ambassador, said, “I hope there will be a day where we will recognize this government, as long as it is based on the principles which they must understand and uphold as part of the international family.”

“But I’m afraid that what we’re doing is getting women and girls caught in the crossfire, and it’s really important that we don’t do that. We heard the stories of many Afghan women who, because of this, cannot feed their children,” she said.

“They are sad stories about women who don’t know where the next meal is coming from.”

According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) the humanitarian crisis in the country affected 28 million people.

Dozens of Afghans have died from the severe cold that is sweeping the country.

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