The Young Afghan Women Movement (YAWM) condemns the Taliban’s decision to setback the reopening of secondary schools for Afghan girls. This decision is part of the group’s exclusionary and extremist practices which segregateAfghan girls and women and impede their g education and empowerment.
After six months of siege, unrest, and civil tensions following the August 2021 takeover, the promise of reopening schools provided a breath of normalcy for Afghan girls. It provided hope for a more inclusive position within society. However, the Taliban’s current decision is indicative of its true intentions, ultimately its interest in securing the rights of women and girls in Afghanistan.
The Taliban´s notorious stance against the education of Afghan girls and women has been present since their rule in the 1990s. However, it is important to note that the group is not the sole opposer to the education of girls and women in the region. This issue has been largely contested in the past.
A Friedrich Ebert Stiftung 2021 report denotes girls’ literacy to be 44% lower than boys. The report observes this to be due to a variety of sociocultural factors. Differing attitudes present among families, the lack of women teachers, and practices of early marriage and childbearing are some of the reasons noted. Additionally, an Afghan-based institution report by the Women and Children Legal Research Foundation estimates that 62% of girls drop out of school between the ages of 13 to 15 due to a variety of such factors.
The evidence collected by such organizations points to the overarching need to emancipate and encourage young Afghan girls and women. Afghan girls and women suffer a low quality of education, economic challenges, lack of accessibility to secondary schools, lack of women teachers, and now, a powerful enemy such as the Taliban. These cultural and structural restraints cannot be overcome overnight, but require sustained attention and advocacy. We call on the international system to take cognizance of the inequalities that threaten safe education among Afghan girls and women, and design creative interventions to effectively engage with such systems.
The Taliban has subsequently refused to provide secular education to both boys and girls and has maintained education as a low priority. Education is a key component to changing one’s worldview, challenging radicalization, and forging creative answers to some of the world’s most pressing problems. The Young Afghan Women Movement operates on this principle through the facilitation of community spaces and networking for Afghan women and young Afghan girls. While the Taliban is one large facet of many issues that we are facing today, we must remember that Afghan women face rigid cultural stereotypes and prejudices outside of this group. We firmly believe that women and young girls must enjoy the freedom to engage in their choice of studies.
While the international community has been strong in its efforts to curb the Taliban’s control through sanctions, it has also impeded the provision of humanitarian aid and assistance. The country is currently suffering from drought, poverty, and starvation. This, in turn, acts as a further obstruction of the education of girls. Thus, a combination of social pressures, scarce opportunities for investment, and an unstable political climate contribute to the absence of girls in schools.
The time to act is now. The YAWM calls upon fellow activists, organizations, collectives, and volunteer professionals working in, and outside of Afghanistan, to collaborate together on two fronts: 1. by instilling sustained pressure on peacebuilding organizations such as the UN and 2. by joining us in creating a space for young Afghan women and girls to reimagine their future.