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NGOs Assess Impact of Taliban on Afghanistan, Provide Roadmap for Immediate U.S. Humanitarian Action for Afghan Women and Girls

WASHINGTON, D.C. — As the world marks one year since the fall of Afghanistan to the Taliban on August 15 of last year, the U.S. Policy Advocates for Afghan Women and Girls Working Group, a coalition of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and humanitarian and human rights organizations, released a policy brief analyzing the catastrophic impact of the Taliban’s rule on Afghan women and girls and providing a roadmap for U.S. government leadership and action to advance Afghan women’s efforts to reclaim their rights.

“One year on, Afghan women and girls continue to live under the threat of violence and face disproportionate burdens of humanitarian need as their human rights are trampled upon by the Taliban,” said Gayatri Patel, vice president of advocacy and external relations at the Women’s Refugee Commission. “Afghan women have spoken, and their demands are clear — their rights must be respected and they must have an equal place in society for Afghanistan to prosper. We urge President Biden and Congress to act immediately to correct course and live up to the U.S.’s own commitments to the people of Afghanistan.”

Prior to the fall of Kabul, Afghan women’s rights activists warned that the Taliban could return to power and reinstate gender apartheid. The new policy brief, “Futures in the Balance: Taking Action to Ensure Afghan Women’s and Girls’ Rights Under Taliban Rule,” shows that those predictions were realized, alongside extreme food insecurity and an economic crisis. The U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan and the international community’s shift in attention and resources to Ukraine have exacerbated the situation for Afghan women and girls.

The policy brief highlights the urgent need for U.S. leadership and mobilization of the international community to center gender equality and women’s rights in all diplomatic, development, peacebuilding, and humanitarian engagement in Afghanistan.

The policy brief outlines concrete actions that the U.S. government should take, including:

  • Full restoration of women and girls’ rights, including their right to education, employment, movement, participation in public life, and freedom from violence. Reversal of Taliban policies eliminating these rights should be raised in all engagements and be a pre-condition of formal recognition of the Taliban.
  • Accountability for Afghan women’s rights as part of diplomatic engagement with the Taliban, including by elevating the U.S. Special Envoy for Afghan Women, Girls, and Human Rights and key U.S. officials to demand achievements of benchmarks on women’s rights and termination of the exemption for all Taliban officials currently under the UN Security Council travel ban.
  • Equitable and non-discriminatory distribution of humanitarian aid for women and girls, full and flexible funding for women’s rights organizations and gender-responsive livelihoods, food security, gender-based violence, health, education, and peacebuilding work, and female humanitarian workers’ ability to work unhindered.
  • Ensure that the Afghan economy does not collapse and that women are lifted out of poverty by working with Afghan women leaders and economists to find transparent solutions to put the $7B in frozen assets from Afghanistan’s Central Bank back into the Afghan economy, while keeping them out of Taliban hands, and restoring women’s right to work.
  • Direct funding to support Afghan women-led organizations and Afghan women leaders, including by partnering with women’s funds and supporting women’s shelters and women’s human rights defenders.
  • Ensure that the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) is held accountable for fully implementing the gender components of its mandate, including by working with women human rights defenders and women-led organizations to implement gender-responsive humanitarian aid, peacebuilding, and dispute resolution work, and consistently demanding the restoration of women’s and girls’ rights by UNAMA’s leadership.
  • Promote the expansion of evacuation and resettlement for Afghan women human rights defenders in the U.S., including by increasing evacuations of at-risk women and their families, and expanding visa categories to establish humanitarian parole or a priority visa category for vulnerable Afghan women and girls.

The U.S. Policy Advocates for Afghan Women and Girls Working Group stated, “The progress Afghan women and girls made — with U.S. support — in securing their rights and forging their equal place in society is recognized as one of the proudest achievements of the two decades prior to the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan in August 2021. Afghan women, and their allies, are demanding action to restore respect for their rights and to meet the humanitarian needs that unduly affect them. The Biden administration and U.S. Congress must act now and put Afghan women and girls at the center of their diplomatic, development, and humanitarian engagement in Afghanistan. It is the U.S.’s moral duty, as well as in the U.S. national security interest, to counter the Taliban’s gender apartheid and advance security and prosperity in Afghanistan. One cannot be achieved without the other.

Organizations that support this brief and are members of the U.S. Policy Advocates for Afghan Women and Girls Working Group include Alliance for Peacebuilding, Futures Without Violence, Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace, and Security, Human Rights Watch, Mina’s List, Refugees International, VOICE, and Women’s Refugee Commission. Read the full brief.