It is now two years since the Taliban took control of Afghanistan, during which time it has imposed the most comprehensive, systematic, and unparalleled assault on the rights of women and girls. Through more than 50 edicts, orders, and restrictions, the Taliban have left no aspect of women’s lives untouched, no freedom spared. They have created a system founded on the mass oppression of women that is rightly and widely considered gender apartheid.
UN Women’s work in Afghanistan is anchored in our relationship with Afghan women. I have repeatedly heard directly from them, including during my mission to Afghanistan earlier this year. They have told me and the world about the ways in which these actions are misguided, cruel, and ultimately self-defeating. They lessen the women and girls of Afghanistan, and the people of Afghanistan who are robbed of their contribution.
This most blatant violation of basic rights, rights to which the international community has unambiguously proclaimed its commitment, is a harm to every one of us across the human family. These are our sisters. They are suffering. We cannot and must not accept this. It must end now.
Despite these challenges, Afghan women also tell me that they will not give up or give in. They will continue to lead the struggle against their oppression. In the face of the most hostile of circumstances they speak out against the violations, deliver lifesaving services, own and operate businesses, and run women’s organizations. Their bravery must inspire us to greater action, their example to renewed determination.
I call on all actors to join us in supporting Afghan women in every way, elevating their voices, priorities, and recommendations, funding the services they so desperately need, supporting their businesses and organizations. I urge the international community to continue to apply every pressure and employ every means at their disposal to press for change, including by answering the call of the humanitarian community and fully funding the humanitarian appeal for Afghanistan.
I urge the Taliban to reconsider and to weigh the cost of these acts for Afghanistan’s present and future. And I reiterate the unwavering and unshakeable commitment of UN Women to the women and girls of Afghanistan.