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UN, Taliban Officials Meet To Discuss Women’s Rights in Afghanistan

Welcome to “Women Around the World: This Week,” a series that highlights noteworthy news related to women and U.S. foreign policy. This week’s post covers January 14 to January 20.

Golestan Safari, 45, poses for a photograph in her house in Kabul. [Ali Khara | Reuters]

UN Sends Representatives to Afghanistan

A delegation from the United Nations visited Afghanistan this week to hold talks with Taliban officials about restrictions on women’s rights. Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed—the UN’s highest-ranking female official—and UN Women Executive Director Sima Bahous both participated. The Taliban has enacted a set of harsh restrictions on women and girls, preventing them from attending school beyond sixth grade and largely prohibiting their participation in public life. In a move that garnered significant condemnation, the Taliban last month barred international NGOs from employing female aid workers. They have since modified this policy to allow female healthcare workers. As a result, some organizations that had initially suspended their work have resumed limited operations. “People are freezing and time is running out," said Ramiz Alakbarov, the UN humanitarian coordinator in Afghanistan. “We need to build shelters now but, in this conservative society, if we don't have female aid workers to speak to women in the families, we can't do this work.”

Fifty Women Abducted in Burkina Faso

Last week, at least fifty women were kidnapped in Burkina Faso where armed groups continue to act with impunity. The government announced on Monday that the women were abducted on January 12 and 13 from districts in the northern province of Soum while out collecting fruit. “It’s a very concerning and serious development in Burkina Faso that exposes the vulnerability of women in areas under blockade,” said Ousmane Diallo, an Amnesty International researcher for West and Central Africa. Extremist groups have blockaded the area for years forcing civilians—mainly women—to travel greater distances for supplies and food. No group has claimed responsibility for the kidnappings, but the country has been besieged by violence linked to Al Qaeda and the Islamic State in recent years. Nearly two million people have been displaced and tens of thousands have been killed.

Women to Train for Taiwanese Reserve Forces

Taiwan announced that it will now allow women to participate in military reserve force training. In a plan released on Tuesday, the Ministry of Defense announced that starting this year, 220 former female service members will be able to volunteer for training that will begin on a trial basis. This decision comes as tensions between Taiwan and China continue to escalate. At the end of last year, Taiwan announced that it will increase mandatory military service for eligible men beginning in 2024. As of 2022, Taiwan had about 170,000 active duty troops.


(c) 2023, Council on Foreign Relations


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