CW4WAfghan Statement on Secondary School Ban for Girls in Afghanistan

As an organization deeply committed to the principle of education for all, and a belief in the transformative power of education, CW4WAfghan is gravely concerned about the Taliban’s recently announced de facto ban on girls’ education beyond primary school in Afghanistan. This decision creates risks not just for the women and girls most directly affected, but for the functioning of society as a whole. 

An established global evidence base has shown that providing both girls and boys the same access to education positively impacts child and maternal health and fertility rates, reduces poverty at the household and community level, and even improves climate change resilience for entire societies. Each year of schooling that a girl receives increases her earning capacity by an average of 3.9% in future wages. Conversely, by restricting educational opportunities for half of the population, this ban will have harmful effects for women and men, girls and boys; it will worsen poverty at a time when Afghanistan is already on the brink of an economic crisis; it will undo all the progress achieved in the health sector; and will further destabilize a fragile society contending with the psychological and political consequences of a long conflict.  

Since 2001, Afghanistan has made impressive strides in widening access to education for adolescent girls, and Afghan girls themselves have maximized the opportunities put before them to make inspiring and transformative contributions to their communities and the world. In 2020, record numbers of female students registered to take Afghanistan’s kankor higher education exam. In October last year, a female student received the nation’s top score in the kankor exam, while just last month amid political upheaval, it was once again a female student who took top place. During the first wave of the global Covid-19 pandemic, a group of Afghan girls studying robotics gave hope and inspiration to the world with the hospital ventilator they invented and built from old car parts. Afghan girls are powerful advocates for their own rights, and we stand in solidarity with them, amplifying their demands for the basic human right to education. 

A nation that seeks to restrict the basic right to education for adolescent girls – and in the process compromising all the national development gains that result – will seriously limit its potential for growth and prosperity; what is more, it will find itself in an increasingly marginalized position on the world stage through its rejection of globally shared goals and values. Research findings also make clear that these shared values extend to the majority of the Afghan people themselves, with 87% of respondents, both men and women, stating that “women and men should have equal educational opportunities”. The governments of Muslim-majority countries from Egypt to Malaysia, from Qatar to Indonesia, have all adopted policies that formalize a commitment to increasing girls’ access to education, at all levels from primary to higher education. Afghanistan should not set itself apart from this global trend by going in the opposite direction. 

While the Taliban have recently stated the ban is “temporary,” a similar pronouncement was made when they banned girls’ and women’s education upon taking power in Kabul in 1996; the ban at that time was never reversed. There is no justifiable reason why girls’ secondary schools could not open alongside boys’ secondary schools. Recent investments in the training of female teachers by teacher colleges across Afghanistan have ensured that there are sufficient female educators in the country to allow girls’ secondary schools to remain open.

We fear for the future of the Afghan population, already on the verge of debilitating levels of poverty and hunger, and particularly for the life chances of girls, the limits to their aspirations, and the lost promise and contributions they can surely make to Afghanistan, should this ban be upheld. Leaving half of the population to exist in intellectual darkness, denying their skills and potential, is not an act of leadership, but of weakness. 

CW4WAfghan remains committed to our mission of promoting the human rights of women and girls in Afghanistan through ensuring access to quality educational opportunities. We will continue to advocate for the right of girls to realize their potential, to bring positive change to their communities, to learn and to achieve for the greater good.  

Respectfully, on behalf of the Board of Directors,

Laila Ghasem Rashid

Chair, Board of Directors

September 23, 2021