The delegation includes Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed and Sima Bahous, executive secretary of UN Women.
Top United Nations officials visiting Afghanistan have held talks with the Taliban-led administration to discuss women’s education and work, weeks after authorities banned most women from working at NGOs and female students from attending universities.
The UN delegation that arrived on Monday included Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed – the highest-ranking woman at the UN – and Sima Bahous, executive secretary of UN Women, according to spokesman Farhan Haq said. Also attending was Khaled Khiari, a senior official of the UN Department of Political Affairs.
Last week, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres denounced the “unprecedented, systemic attacks on women’s and girls’ rights”, which he said “are creating gender-based apartheid”.
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On Tuesday, Mohammed met Mawlawi Amir Khan Muttaqi, Afghanistan’s acting foreign minister.
“FM Muttaqi expressed hope that the delegation would portray Afghanistan’s true picture to the international community,” ministry spokesman Abdel Qahar Balkhi said in a tweet.
“FM Muttaqi added that women are engaged in educational & health sectors in significant numbers whereas those who used to work in government offices are paid salaries at home,” he continued.
Deputy UNSG Amina Mohammed heading a delegation called on IEA Foreign Minister Mawlawi Amir Khan Muttaqi.
Welcoming the UN delegation, FM Muttaqi expressed hope that the delegation would portray Afghanistan’s true picture to the international community. pic.twitter.com/94zVZmWtWK
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— Abdul Qahar Balkhi (@QaharBalkhi) January 18, 2023
Mohammed and other UN officials also met former Afghan President Hamid Karzai. Photographs of the meeting were posted on Karzai’s official Twitter page.
حامد کرزی رئيس جمهور پیشین #افغانستان با محترمه آمنه محمد @AminaJMohammed معاون سرمنشی #سازمان_ملل_متحد و هئیت همراه شان دیدار کرد.
حامد کرزی تشريف آوری هئیت متذکره را به #افغانستان خیر مقدم گفته، از همکاریهای سازمان #ملل_متحد با #افغانستان خصوصاً از کمکهای بشردوستانه این… pic.twitter.com/SKezLaCJYc
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— Hamid Karzai (@KarzaiH) January 18, 2023
The visit came as the Taliban-led authorities faced increasing criticism for the tightening restrictions on women’s freedoms.
Since seizing power in August 2021, the Taliban has imposed severe constraints on women, keeping them out of government jobs, banning them from secondary schools and universities, and even prohibiting them from visiting parks.
Last month, authorities ordered all local and foreign aid groups to stop letting female staff work until further notice, leading several organisations to suspend their activities. At least three of them partially resumed work after receiving assurances from the Taliban authorities that women could continue to work in the health sector.
The UN had decided to continue its operations.
Earlier in December, the Taliban banned women from attending universities. Girls were stopped from attending high school in March.
On January 13, the UN Security Council met privately – at the request of the United Arab Emirates and Japan – to discuss the Taliban’s recent moves.
The United States has pushed the 15-member council to adopt a resolution calling on the Taliban to reverse the bans on women, according to diplomats.
Before arriving in Afghanistan, the delegation held talks in several countries in the region, the Gulf, Asia and Europe to discuss women’s and girls’ rights and sustainable development.
“Clear consensus was evident on the issue of women and girls’ rights to work and have access to education,” said a statement from the United Nations, referring to meetings in the lead-up to the Kabul visit.