In July, the Taliban announced a meeting of selected clerics to decide the fate of the education ban. But only two clerics stood in support of girls’ education. Since then, the Taliban have made no progress on whether they are willing to compromise
“Initially, we were hopeful that they would reopen the schools, but as time went by, we noticed that they were doing something else. They were issuing anti-women rulings every day,” Najand said. No problem with schools, but they want to use them politically. They want to continue their rule over society by banning girls’ schools. It is in their interest to impose restrictions on women because they cannot do it on men. “
After the US military intervention in Afghanistan that ousted the Taliban in late 2001, the war-torn country witnessed a series of socioeconomic reforms and reconstruction programs. A post-Taliban constitution passed in 2004 extended women’s rights to go to school, vote, work, serve in civic organizations, and protest. By 2009, women ran for president for the first time in the country’s history.
But four decades of war and hostilities took a heavy toll on Afghanistan’s basic infrastructure, including the nation’s educational assets.
And before the Taliban seized power on August 15 last year, a UNICEF report found that Afghanistan was struggling with more than 4.2 million children out of school, 60% of whom were girls. While the potential costs of not educating boys and girls alike in terms of lost earnings are high, not educating girls is particularly costly because educational achievement and student delay marriage and childbearing, participating in the workforce, making choices about their own futures, and investing more in their own children’s health and education later in life. The analysis suggests that Afghanistan will not be able to regain GDP lost during the transition and reach its true potential productivity without fulfilling girls’ rights to access and complete secondary education. UNICEF estimates that if the current cohort of 3 million girls were able to complete their secondary education and participate in the job market, it would contribute at least $5.4 billion to Afghanistan’s economy.
Amnesty International reports that the Taliban have prevented women from working across Afghanistan.
“Most women government employees are told to stay at home, except for those working in certain sectors such as health and education,” the report says. “In the private sector, many women have been dismissed from high-level positions. It appears that Taliban policy allows only women to work, who cannot be replaced by men. Women who continued to work told Amnesty International that they found it difficult in the face of Taliban restrictions on their dress and behaviour, such as requirements for female doctors to avoid treating male patients or interacting with male colleagues.
“Twenty years ago, when the Taliban took control of Afghanistan, one of the first things they did was ban women’s access to education,” Najand said. “The Taliban kept a large number of women isolated and an illiterate population; the result was a paralyzed and backward society. We must not forget that the Taliban still suffers from the fundamentalist and repressive mentality it had 20 years ago. We must not remain like the women of 20 years ago and we will not remain silent.
Security threats and acts of terrorism are major concerns for students in Afghanistan. In late October, a suicide bomber attacked a classroom filled with more than 500 students in western Kabul, killing at least 54 school graduates — 54 of them young women. The attack is the second deadly attack on educational centers in the country since the Taliban took over.