Nasreen* and her sister Sana* had to drop out of school to work full time in other people’s homes to support their family. Photo credit: Sacha Myers / Save the Children *Names changed to protect identities
Ban on Female Aid Workers Could Push Afghan Children Back into Work – Save the Children
FAIRFIELD, Conn. (Jan. 06, 2023) — Two weeks since the Taliban banned women from working for any international or national non-government organizations in Afghanistan, children could be forced back into working on the streets, in factories, or in people’s homes because the services supporting them have been paused due to the ban, Save the Children warned today.
Save the Children has had to pause its program activities in Afghanistan due to the ban because women are essential for the safe and effective delivery of its services. Female aid workers make up 50% of the organization’s workforce and are crucial for reaching women and girls who, due to cultural reasons, cannot interact with male aid workers.
The ban comes at a time when Afghanistan is facing its worst economic and food crisis on record, with more than 28 million children and adults in need of humanitarian support. Parents desperate to feed their families are increasingly sending their children to work in often dangerous environments. A recent assessment found that 29% of female-headed households in 2022 had at least one child engaged in child labor, up from 19% in 2021.
Hasina*, one of Save the Children’s child protection workers, said she was deeply concerned that the ban will mean children are pushed back into child labor:
“The ban on female aid workers means we cannot run our programs that help children, especially girls, involved in the most dangerous forms of child labor, such as working in brick factories, on building sites, in people’s homes, and collecting rubbish and begging on the streets.
“Our female staff are involved in every aspect of the program, from going door-to-door to identify girls involved in child labor, registering the girls and supporting them to return to school or enrolling them in vocational training, teaching the girls technical skills and helping them to set up their own businesses – everything.
“If we cannot resume our child protection services with our female staff, many girls will be pushed back into child labor and their former lives of misery.”
Nasreen*, 16, is one of many children in Afghanistan who was forced to leave school to work. Hasina and her team found Nasreen and enrolled her in Save the Children’s vocational training program.
“We had many financial problems, and I was working in other people’s homes cleaning, washing dishes, looking after children, and cooking. But it wasn’t enough, so I had to start begging as well. I was so upset, unhappy, and tired from my life,” Nasreen said.
“Save the Children staff went from house to house to identify the vulnerable boys and girls. Someone told them about me and that I was working in people’s homes. Then they interviewed me, and then I received literacy classes for two months, and then we started vocational training. I’m learning how to embroider, sew clothes, and design clothes. It’s a good chance and opportunity for me, and I feel so happy.”
But with the program now paused due to the ban, Nasreen is at home and worried she will be forced to return to work.
“I recently spoke with Nasreen, and she’s very upset about the training being paused. I asked her if she would learn from a male staff member, and she said that her father and the community would not allow her to go to classes with male teachers, and they would not be allowed to visit her home,” Hasina said.
“She said she was hoping to open her own business and become a trainer at the center one day. Now she’s at home and is fearful of what her future will hold.”
The Taliban’s ban on female NGO workers will have a devastating impact on millions of children, women, and men in need of aid across Afghanistan.
Save the Children, along with other international NGOs, is calling for an immediate reversal of the ban and assurances from the relevant de-facto authorities that its female staff will be able to work safely and without impediment.
*Names changed to protect identities
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