Fighting for women’s rights is a fierce struggle everywhere in the world. But nowhere have more lives depended on it than in Afghanistan right now. Nowhere in the world has our mandate been more challenged, our reason for being more questioned, and our impact more scrutinized than in Afghanistan.
The latest assault on women’s rights – banning Afghan women from working for non-governmental organizations and the UN – violates who we are, what we believe in and the values upon which the international community was founded. It is the culmination of almost two years of edicts, decrees and behaviors that have aimed to systematically erase Afghan women and girls from public life.
The most pressing question we face right now is how we move forward in a principled manner in what the world’s gravest humanitarian and women’s rights crisis is. Since 4 April, all our national staff – men and women – have worked from home. Seventy per cent (70%) of our staff are women. Fifty-five per cent (55%) of our national staff are women. UN Women is uniquely impacted by these restrictions targeting women. But we will not operate with male-only teams. We will not give up on our principled approach of working with women, for women.
This is an unprecedented challenge, but our commitment to Afghan women and girls remains as strong as ever. We will continue to stay in Afghanistan, and we will continue to innovate, reinvent, and rethink. We will do everything possible to ensure we deliver with an impact on the lives of women and girls. We must and we will chart a way forward. For UN Women, this way forward will be guided by two things – the voices and priorities of Afghan women and girls, and our principles.
The fight for women’s rights in Afghanistan is not only about the rights of Afghan women and girls. It is a fight for the rights of every single woman around the world who has ever been oppressed or silenced simply for being a woman.