Education as a human right: Women and education in Afghanistan

Year: 2017

Author: Burridge, Nina, Payne, Anne Maree, Rahmani, Nasima

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Education as a human right: Women and education in Afghanistan
Afghanistan has been mired in the complexities of geo-political power struggles, coups and civil wars since it gained independence from the British in 1919. Women's rights in Afghanistan for at least the last century have see-sawed to reflect the conflicting interests of internal power brokers and the intervention of foreign adversaries. These struggles have continued the trend of "one step forward, two steps back" for the rights of women to the present day.

In 1996, when the Taliban came to power, following the massive chaos created by Mujahidenn (1992-96), the fragile gains made in women's rights during the Russian occupation, which was not welcomed by the Afghans and the West alike, deteriorated rapidly as strict bans were imposed on women's right to work and to gain an education. Since the US and later NATO intervention in Afghanistan in 2001, the status and rights of Afghan women did, in relative terms, improve. However, the reality is that the situation for Afghan women remains precarious, and many continue to experience discrimination and lack of rights, particularly in regional and remote areas where more traditional cultural mores prevail.

This presentation will focus on the experiences of Afghan women who are engaged in higher education in recent years. This research is based on interviews conducted with Afghan women students as well as some male students to investigate their views about women's educational needs and aspirations, the barriers Afghan women face in achieving their educational goals and their perceptions of the possibilities for change. The research was undertaken in conjunction with the Gawharshad Institute of Higher Education in Kabul, Afghanistan. It represents an attempt to listen to the voices of young Afghan women to ascertain what they see as the best ways to improve their educational outcomes.

Female students in particular clearly outlined the importance of education for women but also for Afghan's future. They spoke of their challenges in the face of the fragile political situation and often spoke of the insecurity they faced in seeking an education. They also noted the need for quotas to increase women's enrolment; for greater financial support; measures to increase security and the need to promote human rights education to enable greater acceptance of women's right to an education and in society.