“Shocked, outraged and heartbroken – Taliban ban on women working in humanitarian organization will cost lives”

A Taliban fighter stands guard over a passing woman in Kabul, Afghanistan - Ebrahim Noroozi/AP

A Taliban fighter stands guard over a passing woman in Kabul, Afghanistan – Ebrahim Noroozi/AP

Words from Fatima*, a teacher working for Save the Children in Afghanistan

Just over a week ago, the Taliban banned me from working for Save the Children. I work in education and I love my job more than anything in the world.

They banned me from being Afghan, claiming that women working in a humanitarian organization in Afghanistan are not needed.

I was shocked. indignant. Heartbroken.

Our students are halfway through their exams. Now they may not be able to finish them, which means they may not be able to move on to the next class. A whole year of study wasted.

Girls and women in Afghanistan are no strangers to the long and hard fight for our right to education, freedom of movement and existence.

I was nine years old before I knew what school was. I couldn’t read or write, I didn’t even know what a school building looked like.

The community in Afghanistan where I grew up had no school and everyone was illiterate.

One day, a Turkish organization built a school near my house – and my whole life changed.

It was then that the Taliban first came to power and banned girls from going to school. But my brave father stood up to them and others in our community who believed that girls had no right to an education.

He walked my sister and me to school every day, determined to give us a chance in life. He didn’t want us to marry men older than our grandparents, which often happened to girls in my village.

It was hard and dangerous. My father’s life was in danger. But we did it. We were the first girls in our community to go to school.

And I was the first girl in my community to go to university. I studied midwifery but later decided to become a teacher so that girls in my community would have a chance to be educated.

Fast forward to the present day and history repeats itself.

Once again, the Taliban are in power and have banned girls from high schools and women from universities. They banned us from parks, gyms, and traveling alone. We were forbidden to live our lives.

The latest decree prohibiting women from working in any international or national NGOs in Afghanistan not only further restricts women’s rights – it will cost lives.

Without our female staff, organizations like Save the Children cannot operate safely and effectively in Afghanistan. That’s because women and girls in our communities can only interact with women and girls outside of their own family.

This means that we can only see midwives, doctors or nurses. Our girls can only teach teachers. Households headed by women cannot receive cash and food assistance unless there is a female humanitarian worker in the distribution with whom she can speak.

The ban on women working in humanitarian organizations effectively cuts women and children off from essential support at a time when we are facing the greatest food and economic crisis in history.

I call on the world to stand with us, to stand up for us, to be our voice and to demand that the ban be lifted.

Our life depends on it.

*Names have been changed

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