How Canada Can Help Afghan Women Regain Access to Education and Jobs

Op-Ed by CW4WAfghan Executive Director, Dr. Lauryn Oates

Published in Ottawa Citizen, February 6, 2023

The people of Afghanistan are suffering under the twin crises of a dire humanitarian emergency and an almost unrivalled human rights tragedy, both caused indisputably by the disastrous rule of the Taliban.

While millions of Afghans are “knocking on famine’s door,” the Taliban leadership are focused, rather, on reviving their theocratic dystopia of the 1990s. On Dec. 20, they announced that, effective immediately, women could no longer access higher education. Two days later, they announced women could no longer work in non-governmental organizations, one of the few remaining sectors where women still had access to employment, and where they serve as a key means of getting lifesaving aid into the hands of the most vulnerable.

With the U.S. administration apparently stumped about how to respond to this outrage, it’s easy to think that the situation is hopeless, and nothing can be done. That’s not the case.

Canadians, Canadian institutions and our government can take many actions right now to contribute to restoring Afghan women’s access to their right to education and their right to work. The actions needed must go beyond statements of condemnation. They must be practical measures, where we draw on existing resources and programs, and adapt them for women in Afghanistan as quickly as possible.

Canadian institutions of higher education can accept transfer students in Afghanistan, enable enrolment in virtual programs, waive application fees, provide scholarships, help students with courses that make them more eligible for international study opportunities, and contribute courses and expertise to localize higher-education opportunities for Afghans. These actions and more are outlined in an action toolkit for universities and colleges that launched on Jan. 24, the International Day of Education.

Donor governments, such as Canada, can support Afghan women and girls to access study opportunities outside Afghanistan in countries that issue student visas to Afghan nationals, including to universities and colleges, and even to high schools, considering that secondary school is also banned for females in Afghanistan. There is also an emerging, if disparate, network of independent schools working in exile. These efforts can be supported to scale up and enhance quality, ensuring Afghans have access to alternative forms of education, and importantly, to education credentials that will be recognized internationally.

Read the full article here.