In recent weeks, many of you have contacted us to ask pressing questions. What’s the latest news regarding girls’ education and a woman’s right to work in Afghanistan? How have recent events impacted schools and students supported by Central Asia Institute? Will Central Asia Institute continue to work in Afghanistan?
This week we tackle these questions – sharing what we’ve heard from our partners in-country, as well as our thoughts on what it looks like to continue to support Afghan women and girls during this time of crisis.
Many thanks to those of you who have reached out over the last few weeks to share your hopes and concerns. Your words of encouragement and support bolster our spirits and reassure our Afghan friends that they’re not alone in this dark time.
Taliban leadership is allowing girls to attend primary school. Older girls, however, are not so fortunate. Recently, the Taliban stated that boys could return to secondary school (6th grade and up) but girls must stay home until certain conditions for girls’ education could be worked out. It remains to be seen what that will look like. Already, limitations have been placed on female students – including that they must be educated separately from boys and taught by a female teacher. Given the country’s lack of all-female schools and female secondary school teachers, these restrictions threaten to put school out of reach for many Afghan girls.
Universities opened on September 5th. Women in some regions have been allowed to attend as long as they comply with gender-based education restrictions. In addition, women attending university are being forced to adhere to strict dress codes – they must wear long, black abayas that cover their entire bodies, gloves to cover their hands, and a niqab over their faces, leaving just their eyes uncovered. In some regions, there are reports that women are being turned away from university altogether. Others have been told they cannot take certain classes, like engineering, government studies, or courses that would lead to a career path “unsuitable for women.” Unfortunately, it looks like even restricted access to education may become unavailable to women moving forward. On September 28, the new Chancellor for Kabul University announced that women would be banned from the institution either as instructors or students. Many women fear that it is only a matter of time before the Taliban completely bar them from education.
Our education programs for younger children are going forward. Community-based education centers, which are similar to home schools, and located in a teacher’s home or a community building, continue to operate. Our in-country partners are promoting this type of learning as a way for students (both girls and boys) and teachers to continue learning while keeping a low profile until security improves. Our partners have also been able to restart early childhood education programs for preschool-aged children. Yet other programs are on hold for now.
Right now, the situation is chaotic, and the future remains uncertain. The Afghan economy, which relied almost completely on foreign aid, is at a standstill. People are selling possessions for money in order to buy food. Many people have lost jobs or are too afraid to go to work. Afghanistan is also in the midst of a severe drought, causing extreme water and food shortages across the country. More than 500,000 people have been forced to flee their homes in search of protection and assistance, mainly women and children. Many live on the streets or in parks and lack access to basic necessities like shelter, food, water, and healthcare. Making matters worse, COVID-19 continues to ravage the largely unvaccinated population.
CAI and our partners are working hard to adapt to the situation on the ground to meet the most urgent needs of the Afghan communities we’ve long served. We’re fortunate to work directly through local Afghan partners, who can tell us what they’re seeing and hearing as conditions on the ground change. These organizations have a history of working in districts under Taliban control and have experience safely and effectively delivering education and other forms of assistance. With their guidance and support, we will continue to do all we can to address the needs of those who have been impacted by this crisis.
Although our programs may require modification, or stop and start, we’re committed to standing with our Afghan sisters and brothers for as long as we’re able. Their bravery and determination to fight for a better future for themselves and their children motivate and inspire us daily.
CAI is committed to keeping our supporters informed about the evolving situation on the ground and how it is impacting our programs, and we welcome your inquiries! To dive deeper, please connect with us via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or phone at 406.585.7841. We look forward to speaking with you.
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