Standing With Afghanistan’s Girls

Did you know women in Afghanistan were allowed to attend university and enter the workforce as early as 1957?

Yes, It is true. Throughout the 1960s and 1970s in Afghanistan, women once had equal access as men to education, health care, and jobs.

The Taliban’s oppressive policies towards women have been well-documented, with many women and girls losing their basic rights under the regime. It is a troubling development that should not be ignored by the international community. In this EDU Blog, we will discuss the current state of female education in Afghanistan and what we can do to support Afghan women.

A brief history of Afghan Women's Rights

When it comes to their rights and freedoms, Afghan women have had a long and challenging road. Over time, women’s rights in Afghanistan has been a priority for progressive leaders.  So globally, Afghan women were some of the first to participate equally in all spheres of society, including the workforce, politics and education. For example, under King Amanullah Khan’s rule in 1919, Afghan women first became eligible to vote. This was just an year after women in the UK gained the right to vote, and an year before women in the United States first cast their ballots.

Purdah (gendered separation) was abolished in the 1950s, enabling Afghan women to attend universities and join the workforce by 1957. 

Despite these freedoms, Afghanistan women did not gain equality officially until the 1964 constitution. From that point on, Afghanistan remained a reasonably progressive country in terms of women’s rights.

The Soviet invasion in 1979 and ensuing civil war devastated the country’s infrastructure, economy, and disproportionately impacted women.

During the Taliban’s rule from 1996-2001, women were banned from working, attending school, and leaving their homes without a male guardian. The Taliban’s brutal regime ended in 2001 with the US-led invasion of Afghanistan, which paved the way for a new government and a more open society.

After the Taliban’s defeat in 2001, the international community spent years investing in Afghan education. Many schools opened their doors to girls, and women went back to work due to these efforts. 

In 2004, Afghanistan adopted a constitution that fully defined the rights of Afghan women, sealing the work towards female emancipation in that era. To strengthen this stance, Afghanistan signed the Elimination of Violence Against Women (EVAW) law in 2009.

The Taliban’s takeover of the country in August 2021 has once again brought the issue of Afghan women’s rights and education to the forefront of global attention. However, the Taliban’s takeover has placed the issue in the forefront. Since the Taliban’s return to power, they have rolled back many of the liberties previously enjoyed by women in Afghanistan.

One of the most gross examples of the Taliban’s oppressive policies towards women has been the ban on university education for girls. The lack of respect and upholding of the rights of Afghan women has led to widespread protests within Afghanistan and across the globe. People are demanding that Afghan women’s rights be respected and upheld.

Why did the Taliban ban education for females?

The Taliban’s ban on education for females is not a new policy.

In fact, it was a hallmark of their previous rule in Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001. The Taliban have justified their actions by claiming that co-education is un-Islamic, and that women need to be protected from “immoral” behavior.

The Taliban believes that women should not be educated beyond the basics of reading and writing. They preach that Western education goes against their interpretation of Islamic law.

There were many changes when the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan regained power on 15th August 2021. Afghanistan’s educational institutions suddenly closed all at once.

In addition, all female students, educators and staff are mandated to wear an Islamic abaya robe and niqab, covering the hair, body and most of the face. The Education Ministry mandates the segregation of female students and educators from their male peers for schools allowed to re-open.

What other activities did the Taliban restrict?

Now, Afghan women cannot participate in many activities that are considered normal in other parts of the world, like playing sports or going to work. The regime’s law has banned women from working outside the home, as well as even appearing in public without a male guardian.

The Women’s Affairs Ministry, established in 2001, was canceled and replaced by the Propagation of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice Ministry. As a result, women have lost their voice in the public sphere. 

When leaving the home, Afghan women are required to wear a full burqa. Additionally, they are not allowed to travel more than 72 kilometers without the permission of a male relative. In fact, the Taliban Ministry for Propagation of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice made it illegal for drivers to give rides to women traveling alone.

How can we help Afghan women?

The situation in Afghanistan is dark, and Afghan women need our support now more than ever. There are several ways we can help:

  • Donate to organizations that support Afghan women’s rights and education: There are several organizations around the globe that are working to support Afghan women’s rights and education, and can all be easily contacted for donations online. These include the Afghan Women’s Network, Women for Afghan Women, and the Malala Fund.

  • Raise awareness about the situation in Afghanistan: Sharing information to raise awareness about the situation in Afghanistan can help bring attention to the issue and mobilize support. Use social media and other platforms to share information about the Taliban’s impact on Afghan women’s rights and education.

  • Contact your elected officials: Contacting your elected officials and urging them to support Afghan women’s rights and education can help put pressure on governments to take action. Write letters, send emails, and make phone calls to your representatives to let them know that this is an important issue.

Final Thoughts

The ban on education for Afghan girls is a clear violation of their basic human rights. By raising awareness of the issue and supporting organizations working to promote women’s rights in Afghanistan, we can help to ensure that the voices of these brave women are heard. Additionally, by demanding that the international community take action, we can contribute to protecting their rights.

Sign up, join our community to stand in solidarity with these women and girls as they fight for their right to education and equality.

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