The Taliban has Banned Women from Universities. What can be Done?

The Taliban has doubled down its grip on the Afghan educational system with devastating and far reaching consequences.

On 20 December, the Taliban officially announced that women are banned from attending public and private universities, effective immediately. Tens of thousands of women across Afghanistan have just had their education interrupted, and as a result, their dreams put on hold. Just days before the ban, it came to light that the Taliban is also proposing modifications to Afghanistan’s curriculum that will engineer the curriculum to propagate hatred, violence, misogyny and radicalization, and will ban any content promoting peace, democracy, women’s rights, or human rights.

In light of the latest restrictions on women’s access to higher education, the longstanding ban on girls’ secondary education, as well as the concerns we have expressed with regards to the consequences of the proposed curriculum changes to Afghan education, Canadian Women for Women in  Afghanistan is calling on Canada and on democratic governments around the world to circumvent the Taliban completely and ensure Afghan children, youth, and women can access a real education by

      • upholding the right to education by ensuring safe access to refuge – a right in itself – and facilitating escape from Taliban Afghanistan,
      • funding and scaling alternative, independent education systems such as virtual schools that have cropped up since August 2021 when the Taliban banned girls’ education,
      • supporting foreign schools to enroll Afghan students remotely, funding tuition so Afghans gain credentials from recognized institutions and therefore be afforded international opportunities,
      • investing in access to education for displaced people. Afghans now account for the second greatest proportion of displaced people, after Syrians. Refugees who can access education go on to become the engineers, doctors, teachers, and leaders of their societies, and may eventually be one of the most important assets in post-Taliban Afghanistan.

The right to education is a fundamental human right enshrined by international law. This right includes not only access to education, but also requires that education meet minimum standards of quality such that education leads to better life opportunities.

“Education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. It shall promote understanding, tolerance, and friendship among all nations, racial or religious groups, and shall further the activities of the United Nations for the maintenance of peace.”
– Article 26(2), Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Governments, civil society, and education activists must urgently work together to find alternatives to give Afghan women and children access to a real education and protect children from the harms of a Taliban education. As we recently stated, “Just as nefarious forces can manipulate education to produce hate and violence, so can education be manipulated to yield peace.”

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