The issue of female education restriction in Afghanistan, the only country in the world to do so, has been discussed at the United Nations General Assembly.
Two years ago, the Taliban instituted a policy that prevented girls from continuing their education past the sixth grade; this policy is still widely regarded as the Taliban’s most significant impediment to being recognized as the legitimate ruler of Afghanistan. They ignored the pushback and kept women and girls out of universities, public places like parks, and the workforce.
The Taliban’s views on girls’ education stem partly from a school of Islamic thought popular in the 19th century and partly from deeply ingrained tribalism in rural areas. Clerics outside of Afghanistan agree that Islamic teaching places equal value on girls’ and boys’ education. However, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation and other nations’ pleas have fallen on deaf ears in the Taliban government.
The ban on girls attending high schools exacerbates a preexisting problem for all Afghans, not simply a gendered one. Afghanistan’s economy has been devastated, affecting tens of thousands of teachers and support workers and private organizations and businesses that gained financially from girls’ education. According to UNICEF, excluding women from the workforce reduces a country’s GDP by billions of dollars.
By shifting their focus to madrasas or religious schools, the Taliban have left behind a generation of students who will have neither modern nor secular education to help them or their country prosper. Public health and child safety are just two examples of broader societal effects.
Because of the rising difficulties families encounter, aid organizations warn that girls who are not in school are at a higher risk of child labor and child marriage. The Taliban have been fighting for Sharia, or Islamic law, for decades, but they haven’t been able to make much of an impact. While countries with ties to the Taliban might be able to have an effect, their diverging agendas make it less likely that they will work together to improve females’ access to school.
The pressure within Afghanistan from regular Afghans is considerably more significant and influential now than when the Taliban ruled the country in the 1990s.