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Supporting education for Afghanistan’s girls as election looms

As Afghanistan heads towards democratic elections the progress that has been made for the rights of women and girls hangs in the balance.

Women’s education is crucial to the future of peace and security in one of the world’s most war torn countries. While there has been a great deal of political reform in Afghanistan, including in the rights of women and girls, the upcoming April 5th election leaves the country’s future uncertain.

Richard Wainwright/Act For Peace Image Frame

Education in Afghanistan:
A short history

  • Between 1987 - 1992 the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan brought in education for both sexes. They encouraged female involvement which grew to make up 40% of the doctors and 60% of teachers in Kabul.
  • In 1996 the Taliban Regime restricted education for females and the madrassa (mosque school) became the main source of education.
  • During Taliban rule only 1.2 million students were enrolled and less than 50,000 were girls.
  • Hamid Karzai, the outgoing president, has held his position since 2001 when the Taliban fell from power and in his 13 years in office he called on religious scholars and tribal elders to encourage the education of girls.

The upcoming election

As President Hamid Karzai’s government steps down it is unclear which political faction will step into his place and with what agenda. The democratic process in Afghanistan remains marred by violence. Taliban attacks on a hotel in Kabul, the Afghan electoral commission and other election offices have caused international observers to be pulled out of Afghanistan in advance of the election, excepting those from the EU and UN. Polling booths remain under threat, some of which will be located within schools. 

Act for Peace’s partner in Afghanistan CWS/P-A has raised concerns over the safety of staff and students in schools. Programs have currently been suspended and students sent home to ensure their safety in this uncertain time. 

What impact will the election have?

Aside from the promotion of democratic freedom and security, the upcoming elections raise uncertainty as to the future protection and promotion of women’s rights in Afghanistan.

The incoming government’s policies on women’s education, rights and political participation are extremely important in ensuring continued progress in a nation with a tumultuous past. In 1996 the Taliban Regime restricted education for females. During Taliban rule only 1.2 million students were enrolled in school and less than 50,000 of those were girls.

Educating children, and in particular girls, is one of the best predictors of a well-developed nation and an insurer of greater national security.  The gains from educating girls have been repeatedly proven to positively impact multiple aspects of a nation’s health, including economic growth, child and maternal mortality rates, overall education rates, and, quite literally, happier families.

Quality education is crucial for any attempt to alleviate poverty and create meaningful change. The incoming government will determine the fate of a new generation of Afghani women.

Why does education matter?

One of the most integral changes in the rights of women in Afghanistan in recent years has been their access to education. There are now 2.4 million Afghan girls enrolled in school, compared to just 50,000 in 2001. It is very important that this progress continues. Act for Peace supporters have been playing a big part in ensuring that it does, raising an incredible $2.3 million for Christmas Bowl last year, which contributed to the work of our partners in raising the access and quality of education for girls in Afghanistan.

Act for Peace’s partner in Afghanistan, CWS-P/A, has been working hard to not only raise the number of girls in school, but also to raise the quality of education they are receiving. Recently 20 male teachers from seven girls’ high schools in the Qarghayee district of Laghman province attended a five-day training course to provide them with knowledge and practical skills to help them in the classroom. Through this provision of adult education CWS-P/A has been ensuring that teachers are able to provide the best quality of education to the next generation of Afghans.

“Usually the trainings I have attended were all theory based but this training was practical which helped us to learn more.” says Najeebullah, a teacher who attended the training. “This training was very well and I learned how to develop low cost teaching material. I will also share my experience and learning with other teachers.”

What now?

In the face of the upcoming elections, it is more important than ever that we support the work of our partners in ensuring that every girl in Afghanistan has the chance to go to school and that teachers like Najeebullah are able to provide them with the best education.

Our thoughts and prayers are with the people of Afghanistan as they face this uncertain moment in their country’s history.

We believe that every girl deserves an education and we will continue to work together to break the cycle of conflict and poverty.

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