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  • Gali Weiss

Breakthroughs that Are Questionable


Photograph: Felipe Dana/AP


Many of the women I'm in touch with have been waiting to continue their studies. Girls are still restricted from High Schools. Universities have partially opened for women, a breakthrough it seemed at the time, though with severe restrictions. There is little money for the women to attend and the level of education is low. According to reports I'm receiving, many senior academics and experienced professors have left the country or their jobs, and younger teachers with less or no experience of teaching have taken over their positions on a casual basis. Equipment and labs are barred from women's access. Men studying medicine, for example, have access to lab facilities; women cannot join these sessions and are learning through blackboard instruction.


Women are restricted from working, and the cost of food and day-to-day living is so challenging that most of the population is now living in poverty.* The Russian invasion of Ukraine, war, and associated sanctions will additionally no doubt increase prices for imported food and fuel. **


And yet, for the young women I hear from, it is education that will keep them going: "The only hope for my sister is to study" wrote to me a woman advocating for her sister. Another woman told us it was important for her as a woman to attend university, whatever the level and the threatening situation, because if not, it would provide the Taliban with 'proof' to the international community that women are not wanting to study. Attendance is an act of resistance in itself.

Students returned to Laghman University, whilst Taliban fighters stood guard.

Image: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-60236826


I was told of a Taliban group entering a certain university to check on regulations and security. The outcome was that students were ushered into a lecture hall to hear the Taliban spokesperson (armed) lecture on the role and duty of women being only to care for their families and households, and to breed/nurture children. The student who reported this to me wrote that she and her colleagues thought they would not come out of the hall alive. They did. What are the repercussions of such an intimidating situation, I ask myself? Does it result in fear and annihilation, or does it result in even greater determination despite fear, to achieve human rights and a hopeful future?


There is more I can write, but I'll end this post with a quote from one of my contacts in a province in Afghanistan, who writes of the importance of people outside of Afghanistan to continue being engaged with women like her.


"As you know, with the coming of the Taliban, Afghanistan changed to a prison for people, especially for women. They took the right of education from girls, and they are trying their best to keep girls uneducated. I am glad that there are some people like you who are thinking about us and don't leave us alone. Your support makes us more stronger and make us feel that the Taliban is not strong enough to deprive us of education."


*Even in September 2021 the prediction from the UN Development Programme (UNDP) was that the rate of poverty in Afghanistan is expected to reach 97% by mid-2022 (https://www.undp.org/press-releases/97-percent-afghans-could-plunge-poverty-mid-2022-says-undp)



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