United Nations to Withdraw from Afghanistan
The United Nations (UN) announced that it will withdraw support from Afghanistan in May if the Taliban refuses to make exceptions to its edict restricting women from delivering humanitarian assistance. The Taliban originally announced barring women from working for NGOs in December, allegedly because the female workers were not wearing their hijabs correctly or following gender segregation rules and expanded the ban to the UN earlier this month. The UN employs 3,300 Afghans—2,700 men and 600 women—who have been working from home since the ban was announced. “I think there is no other way of putting it than heartbreaking. I mean, if I were to imagine the UN family not being in Afghanistan today, I have before me these images of millions of young girls, young boys, fathers, mothers, who essentially will not have enough to eat,” said Achim Steiner, head of the UN Development Program. The UN is currently working to find exceptions that would allow women to continue working in sectors such as health, education, and some small businesses, but they have also indicated that they are unwilling to compromise on fundamental human rights. Next month, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres will convene meetings on Afghanistan in hopes of constructing a unified approach to dealing with the Taliban.
State Sponsored Recruitment of Ethiopian Women to Saudi Arabia
Ethiopia is recruiting up to five hundred thousand women to serve as domestic workers in Saudi Arabia. For nearly fifty years, Ethiopians have traveled to Kuwait, Lebanon, and Saudi Arabia through local recruitment agencies or human traffickers in search of blue-collar jobs. This time, at the request of the Saudis, the Ethiopian government is facilitating the recruitment of as many as half a million women between the ages of fourteen and forty to send to Saudi Arabia by hosting orientation sessions, displaying billboards, and personally calling returnees. The program is using “safety” as a recruiting tool as women will not need to take the dangerous migrant route through Djibouti and Yemen and will instead board government-funded flights. Recruits are being told this is an “opportunity of a lifetime,” while human rights experts fear that “economic gains are being prioritized at the expense of women’s safety and their rights.” Saudi Arabia’s existing labor laws that do not provide full protections to migrant workers.
U.S. Courts Continue Battle Over Access to Abortion Pill
The Supreme Court issued a stay against two rulings—one from a federal judge in Texas and one from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. The Texas ruling would have invalidated the Federal Drug Administration’s (FDA) approval of the drug and suspended it from the market entirely and the Fifth Circuit ruling would have restricted the availability of the drug—in large part by removing the ability to access the drug by mail. The case will still need to be heard in the Fifth Circuit and may head to the Supreme Court again, but the drug will remain available for now.