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Taliban allow female enrolment in state-run medical institutes – Official media says

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The Taliban have reportedly allowed female high school graduates in Afghanistan to enrol in state-run medical institutes for the new academic year that begins in March.

ISLAMABAD — February 20, 2024 5:32 AM

The enrollment process has begun in more than a dozen Afghan provinces, following a directive from the Ministry of Public Health in Kabul, the Taliban-run official Bakhtar news agency said Tuesday. It provided no further information.

There was no immediate comment from de facto Afghan authorities on the ministry’s reported directive.

The Taliban have banned girls’ education beyond the sixth grade and barred women from working in public and private sectors since reclaiming power in Afghanistan in August 2021.

The reported health ministry directive could be a sign of relief for girls who graduated before the Taliban takeover to resume their education and pursue employment in the health sector, one of the few areas where women are still permitted to work.

Aid groups say the restrictions on women’s education and work have hurt an already fragile Afghan health sector as the country has not produced a single doctor for over a year.

The United Nations has repeatedly warned that Afghanistan faces a shortage of qualified health workers in general and women in particular.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres reiterated Tuesday that the Taliban must reverse “the outrageous ban on girls’ access to education and the ban on women’s employment.

“Women & girls must be able to fully & meaningfully participate in all aspects of Afghan life – from seats in classrooms to the tables where decisions are made,” Guterres wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter.

He made the statement a day after hosting an international conference in Qatar, where envoys from 25 countries, as well as the European Union, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, discussed engagement with Afghanistan’s de facto Taliban authorities.

Guterres stressed the need for girls’ education while briefing reporters on the conference’s outcomes in Doha, the capital of the Gulf state. He said it would be “inconceivable” for him if his three granddaughters could not attend secondary school and could not go on to university.

“I would like all the granddaughters and daughters in Afghanistan to enjoy exactly the same rights that my granddaughters will hopefully enjoy in my country,” said the secretary general.

The U.S.-based watchdog said the Taliban’s sweeping restrictions on women’s employment have fueled the crisis.

In a report this month, Human Rights Watch warned that a sharp reduction in foreign financial and technical development has severely harmed the Afghan healthcare system.

“Women have been banned from most civil service jobs, from employment with nongovernmental organizations and the United Nations except for specific positions in health care and education, and from some private sector jobs,” the report said.

It noted that the curbs on women and girls have “gravely impeded” their access to health services and have blocked almost all training of future female healthcare workers in Afghanistan.

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