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Monday, 21 May, 2001, 16:02 GMT 17:02 UK
Taleban compromise over women researchers
Bread distribution in Kabul
The WFP organises sales of subsidised bread to poor Afghans

By Kate Clark in Islamabad

The World Food Programme (WFP) has said that Afghanistan's Taleban government have agreed to allow it to hire Afghan women to conduct a survey of vulnerable people in the capital, Kabul.

The WFP provides subsidised bread to a fifth of Kabul's population, but says a new survey is needed as its current list of beneficiaries is inaccurate and out of date.

Afghan women
The Taleban ban women from holding jobs
A year ago, the sight of hundreds of prospective women researchers massed outside the WFP's Kabul offices reportedly led the Taleban to ban Afghan women from working for foreign aid agencies.

The Taleban believe it is un-Islamic for women to be working outside the home at all except in the highly segregated medical sector.

The issue has proved to be one of the most sensitive facing aid organisations.

Women-only survey

The WFP says that any new survey has to be conducted by women because only they can go into other people's homes without dishonouring the household.

It seems it was in the interests of both sides to find a way to keep the bakeries open

The WFP says there are many needy people who are currently missing out on its subsidised bread, as well as people whose living standards have improved, but who still hold ration cards.

The issue has been under quiet negotiation for months, and the news that WFP will finally be allowed to hire Afghan women appears to be a breakthrough.

There were fears that the WFP might close its bakeries down if it could not conduct the survey.

But in the end it seems it was in the interests of both sides to find a way to keep the bakeries open.

The WFP has also said it has reopened its widows' bakeries in Kabul after closing them down as a precaution after five members of the Taleban's religious police raided one of the bakeries last Thursday.

The 21 bakeries employ widows, and supply subsidised bread to vulnerable women-headed households.

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See also:

16 Aug 00 | South Asia
Taleban shuts women's bakeries
18 May 01 | South Asia
Taleban vice raid closes hospital
20 Dec 00 | South Asia
Analysis: Who are the Taleban?
17 May 01 | South Asia
Taleban shuts more Afghan schools
17 May 01 | South Asia
'Liberty' for Afghan women
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