UNDP regional chief concerned about situation of Afghan women, girls

A senior UN official has urged the international community to hold dialogue with the Taliban and provide support for women and girls in Afghanistan.

The UN Development Programme's Director of the Regional Bureau for Asia and the Pacific, Kanni Wignaraja, spoke to NHK on Monday in Tokyo.

The Taliban, which seized power two years ago, have been restricting women's rights to education and work.

Wignaraja said there is a direct correlation between the denial of their basic freedoms and a sense of hopelessness and losing one's self esteem, particularly among young women.

She also expressed concern about the mental wellbeing of Afghan women and a growing number of child marriages amid the country's dire economic situation.

The international community has not recognized the Taliban as a legitimate government. But Wignaraja said they are the authority right now who are running the country.

She therefore urged countries to continue to negotiate with the Taliban and look for ways to directly support women to run their lives.

She also touched on this year's Nobel Peace Prize that has been awarded to jailed Iranian women's rights advocate Narges Mohammadi.

Wignaraja said it "certainly gives Afghan women and girls the sense that the world sees them."

She added that if culture hurts or destroys people, that culture has to change, urging the world to pressure the Taliban into changing their policy toward women.