Women’s education and CAI programming: What does the future hold?
Updated December 9, 2021
In the past several months, many of you have contacted us to ask pressing questions. What’s the latest news from Afghanistan? What is the situation regarding Afghan girls’ education and Afghan women’s right to work? How have recent events impacted schools and students supported by Central Asia Institute? Will Central Asia Institute continue to work in Afghanistan?
Below we tackle these questions – and also share what Central Asia Institute is doing to help thanks to your caring and support.
We are deeply grateful for all who have expressed your concerns and/or donated to support CAI’s efforts in Afghanistan. Your generosity, words of encouragement, and support bolster our spirits and reassure our Afghan friends that they’re not alone in this dark time.
What is the current situation in Afghanistan?
Four months since the Taliban took control of Afghanistan, its people continue to face a precarious future. When the U.S. evacuated in mid-August, the humanitarian situation was already serious due to the compounding impacts of conflict, the persistence of COVID-19, and a second year of severe drought.
Alarmingly, the situation has only worsened since then. Hundreds of thousands of people displaced during 2021 are facing dire conditions as winter sets in. The economy – which was almost entirely dependent on foreign aid – is in crisis pushing the majority of the population below the poverty line. Government employees including the police, healthcare workers, and teachers, have not been paid and in many places, basic services like healthcare and education are unavailable. As winter sets in, more than 22 million people are struggling to put food on their tables and an estimated 3.2 million children face life-threatening, acute malnutrition.
To address this, donor countries have pledged over a billion dollars in humanitarian aid, and the United Nations and international aid groups are scrambling to deliver emergency humanitarian assistance. To avoid catastrophe and save lives, the Taliban and the international community will need to work together with the best interests of millions of innocent people in mind.
What is CAI doing to help?
CAI has been working closely with its local partners to address the greatest needs of the Afghan people. In November, we launched a project to assist displaced women, men, and children who fled with few, if any, belongings and are living in makeshift shelters in informal displacement sites as winter conditions set in. Three hundred vulnerable families were identified and provided with key essentials including mats, blankets, cooking utensils, and books, pencils, and toys for their children.
Emergency aid kits – including blankets, mattresses, backpacks, toys, and books – ready for distribution.
Displaced young girl and baby who are living in a camp for displaced people.
Women and children waiting in line to receive an emergency aid kit.
Families claiming their emergency aid kits provided by Central Asia Institute.
Over the winter months, our support will continue to target the most vulnerable people including children, people with disabilities, and pregnant and lactating women. An additional 360 households (approximately 2,500 people) will receive winterization assistance including fuel to heat their homes, winter clothing, and blankets.
What’s the latest news regarding girls’ education and a woman’s right to work?
Taliban leadership is allowing girls to attend primary school. Older girls, however, are not so fortunate. In September, 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. Since then, the spokesman for the Taliban has reiterated that the new government supports girls’ education and will provide opportunities for girls and women to work and go to school. But the Taliban leadership has yet to announce when and under what conditions older girls will be allowed to return to middle and high school saying only that their religious scholars “are working on it.”
In the meantime, limitations have already 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 burqas or 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.
How have recent events impacted schools and students supported by Central Asia Institute?
Our education programs for pre-school and primary school-aged children, including community-based education, wound up in November. At present, Central Asia Institute’s education projects are on hold while we work to ensure that procedures are in place to address risks and challenges that have arisen under the new Taliban regime. In the meantime, we will continue to provide humanitarian assistance targeting the most vulnerable, especially children and women. With pressure building both on the Taliban to allow all girls to attend school and women to work, and on donor governments to ensure that restrictions on assistance don’t end up further harming women and girls, we remain hopeful that access to education for all Afghans will improve in the coming months.
Will Central Asia Institute continue to work in Afghanistan?
Right now, the greatest concern is the humanitarian situation as described above. CAI and our partners are working hard 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 humanitarian and development 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.
Have other questions we didn’t address?
CAI is committed to keeping our supporters informed about the evolving situation on the ground and how we are responding, 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.