With the departure of American troops from Afghanistan, and the Taliban take- over of the country, the situation for all Afghanis, and particularly girls and women has deteriorated. Poverty, hunger, child malnutrition, human rights violations, the collapse of the health system have placed the country at crisis level. In the words of António Gueterres, “Afghanistan is at a make or break point”.

With all major funding cut, the people of Afghanistan are living a humanitarian catastrophe. As an organisation that supports girls and women Giving Women felt compelled to bring together  a panel of experts from UN organisations, INGOs and smaller local Afghan organisations to brief us on the situation on the ground and guide us on how best we can help.

This is a humanitarian emergency, as reported by the New Humanitarian:

A $600-million emergency appeal is about a third funded, though donors purportedly pledged some $1.2 billion for Afghanistan’s spiralling crises. Near the top of a lengthy to-do list is a food crisis caused by the economic crash that followed the Taliban’s rapid takeover (and the equally swift stoppages of international aid funds). Food unaffordability – income has plummeted; prices have soared – will have knock-on effects throughout the humanitarian sphere, from rising malnutrition to pressure on migration. Aid groups are already reporting high rates of malnutrition (on top of measles outbreaks and confirmed cases of cholera). The UN predicts half the country’s children under five could face acute malnutrition by the end of the year. Aid agencies and donors have plans to prop up Afghanistan’s ailing health sector for the next few months, but the system itself remains close to collapse. One early sign of the depth of the food crisis: urban, middle-class families are among the newly hungry. As one analyst told The New Humanitarian last week, “the foremost need right now is food security”.

This panel conversation: an update on the situation of girls and women in Afghanistan, How can we help?
Thursday 4 November 2021, 12:30 CET

Here are our panelists:

  • Zuhra Dadgar-Shafiq, Founder and director, Action for Development
  • Christine Cipolla, Regional Director, Asia and the Pacific, ICRC
  • Astrid van Genderen Stort, Chief of Emergencies and Marketing, UNHCR
  • Ann Coffin, Head of Country Programmes, Medair
  • Heather Barr,  Associate Director, Women’s Rights Division, Human Rights Watch

The panel conversation was moderated by Atalanti Moquette, Founder of Giving Women.

Photographer credit: © UNHCR/Edris Lutfi
Date: 9/07/2021
Picture description: Nine-year-old Fatima stands in front of her family’s mud house after fetching water from a nearby well in Omid-Sabz settlement for internally displaced people near Kabul.



Heather Barr is the interim co-director of the Women’s Rights Division at Human Rights Watch. She has done research in countries including Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Burma, Nepal, and Papua New Guinea, on issues including child marriage, girls’ education, violence against women, refugee and prisoners’ rights, and trafficking.

She joined Human Rights Watch in 2011 as the Afghanistan researcher, after working for the United Nations in Afghanistan and Burundi. After law school she litigated for discharge planning for prisoners with psychosocial disabilities in New York City, and founded an alternative-to-incarceration program. Before law school, she worked with homeless women. She is a graduate of London School of Economics, Columbia Law School, and John Jay College of Criminal Justice.


Since June 2019, Christine Cipolla is the ICRC’s Regional Director for Asia-Pacific. Prior to assuming her new post, Christine Cipolla served as the ICRC’s Head of Delegation (HoD) in Kinshasa, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), 2016- 2019.

Ms. Cipolla previously served as HoD in Dhaka, Bangladesh (2013-2016) and as Deputy Head of Operations in South Asia, in Geneva. Ms. Cipolla joined the ICRC in 2005 and undertook a number of field missions (in Ethiopia, Myanmar, Uganda, Sri Lanka and Iraq), first as a Protection delegate, then as Head of Sub-Delegation.

Before joining the ICRC, Ms Cipolla worked with Doctors Without Borders (MSF) in Bunia, DRC and with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Gao, Mali. Ms Cipolla holds a bachelor’s degree in Law.


Anna Coffin worked in people and logistics management before a career transition in 2010 brought her into the humanitarian sector, fulfilling a long-held ambition.
She worked as a field logistician in Haiti with GOAL after the 2010 earthquake, before joining Medair in 2012.

Anna worked for Medair as Project Support Manager and subsequently Country Director in Madagascar, Country Director in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and is now working at Medair’s headquarters in Switzerland as Head of Country Programmes for Afghanistan and Somalia.

Although she grew up in the UK, Anna has spent a lot of time living abroad. She is fascinated by languages and enjoys learning about other cultures. Anna is motivated by the desire to support and encourage others and to enable them to succeed.  In her free time she enjoys reading and hiking, and keeping her cat company.


Zuhra Dadgar-Shafiq Zuhra has built her career in social development, gender, public health and management; she has worked over 15 years with different international organizations including UNDP, USAID, MSH, Save the Children Sweden, Afghanaid, GFMER and the Ministry of Public Health of Afghanistan.She also has professional experience in the field of social development in Pakistan and Afghanistan. She specializes in strategy performance, macro-level planning and policy development.

Zuhra serves as Strategy Performance and Evaluation Director at AfD. Her mandate is to address the strategic expansion of the organization, primarily focusing on initiatives addressing community development, health, education and the empowerment of women. She also served as a member of AfD’s board of trustees for 3 years.


Astrid van Genderen Stort is UNHCR’s Chief of Emergencies and Marketing. She has worked for UNHCR for more than 25 years, across many operations and locations, including Lebanon, Liberia, West Africa, Iraq, Kosovo and China. More recently, Astrid returned from Brazil and Colombia, where she saw first-hand UNHCR’s efforts to help refugees from Venezuela.



Atalanti Hadjipateras Moquette received a BA Hons. in Philosophy and Ancient Greek at King’s College London. She continued her postgraduate studies in Art History at the University of Toronto. Atalanit’s passions include education, art, philanthropy and women’s rights.She started her career on the specialist side of Sotheby’s and has worked on education policy in Toronto and Geneva. Her involvement in the field of philanthropy follows a family tradition began at the grassroots level, running a life skills programme in a shelter for battered women.

In 2009 Atalanti founded Giving Women, a network of diverse but like-minded women who pool their professional skills and experience to provide advice to strengthen projects directed at vulnerable girls and women globally. Her interest in social impact investing started when she and her daughter, Elianna, established Step Up, to advise start-up social business and banks on questions of social impact and responsible investing.