Breaking Barriers: Ensuring Access to Education for Afghan Women


Afghanistan: Supporting Education for Girls, Women | Human Rights Watch

High school girls in Kabul, Afghanistan, line up to go home after classes in 2017. © 2017 Paula Bronstein for Human Rights Watch

by Muhammad Wsama Khalid    18 April 2023

Women’s literacy in Afghanistan is 19.1%, much lower than the literacy rate of 49.3% for males, as reported by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). Women in rural areas have much less access to school, thus their literacy rate is significantly lower.

The education of Afghan women has been impacted by the country’s turbulent political and social history. Concerns over women’s rights and access to education arose when the Taliban reclaimed power in Afghanistan in August 2021. During 1996-2001, under their former government, women were severely restricted in their participation in public life and the educational system. Women were forbidden to pursue higher education and were punished harshly if they attempted to do so.

To empower women and advance gender equality, education must be prioritized as a basic human right. Women’s empowerment, health, and full community engagement may all benefit from women gaining a higher level of education. In a country like Afghanistan, where women’s rights and liberties have historically been under attack, education is more vital than ever.

As far as women’s rights are, the United Nations has deemed Afghanistan to be “the most oppressive nation in the world.” The low education rates of Afghan women are the result of several issues. Particularly in more rural locations, cultural views tend to place more value on the education of males than girls. Many people don’t think it’s safe enough or they can’t afford to send their girls to school. Further complicating matters for female students is the fact that the country’s protracted war and political turmoil have had a devastating effect on the country’s educational infrastructure and resources.

The future of women’s education in Afghanistan is of great concern since the restoration of the Taliban to power. Many people are worried that they may reinstate the same limitations on education that were in place during the previous government since they have already prevented females from attending school in several sections of the nation.

Educating women is essential to attaining long-term economic progress, which in turn has a huge influence on a country’s standard of living. Educating women has been shown to improve their economic possibilities, income, and productivity. Women’s education levels have a direct impact on poverty rates since educated women are more likely to enter the workforce, launch their enterprises, and boost their families’ financial security.

Women with higher levels of education are more likely to prioritize their health and that of their families by accessing medical treatment. Their knowledge of diet, cleanliness, and illness prevention has increased, which has a positive impact on the health of both mothers and children.

Women’s empowerment and gender equality may be furthered via education. Women with higher levels of education are more inclined to fight against gender bias and sexist attitudes. In addition, they are better able to make important choices such as when and if they get married, how many children to have, and what kind of profession to pursue. Obtaining a formal education may empower women to take leadership roles in their communities and fight for their rights.

Access to education for women in Afghanistan is a priority, and the international community can help by offering assistance and support. The funding might go towards a variety of initiatives, such as teacher-education programs and educational grants for deserving young women. Supporting Afghan women’s access to education also requires the help of local organizations and community leaders. International assistance may be more efficiently directed to meet the unique needs of local populations, such as removing cultural and social obstacles to schooling, by cooperating with these groups.

For their roles in promoting a ban on women’s education and maintaining gender segregation in public spaces, the European Union has sanctioned two acting ministers of the Islamic Action Group: Neda Mohammad Nadim (Higher Education) and Mohammad Khalid Hanafi (Propagation of Virtue and Prevention of Vice).

Access to education for women in Afghanistan may be greatly aided through advocacy and awareness campaigns. Efforts in this direction might take the form of public awareness campaigns on the value of girls’ education, community mobilization drives, and advocacy for governmental changes that increase opportunities for women to further their education.

The economic, health, and emancipatory advantages of female education in Afghanistan cannot be overstated. It’s also a basic human right that anyone should have access to. IAG’s restriction on Afghan female pupils attending school is a harsh and regretful move that would further isolate Afghanistan. For Afghanistan to progress, women must take part in public and political life. Afghan women and girls should be given equal opportunities to reach their full potential and advance their nation.