Hundreds of thousands of teenage girls in Afghanistan remain unable to attend secondary school as Taliban authorities continue to ban their attendance, even as schools have reopened for the new academic year. The ban on girls’ secondary education has been in effect since March 2021, hours after the education ministry reopened schools for both girls and boys. Education Minister Habibullah Agha has confirmed that schools up to grade six “will currently be open for girls,” effectively retaining the ban on high school for female students.
Although Islamic schools, known as madrassas, remain open for girls of all ages, they do not provide a path to careers such as medicine or teaching. Young girls like Yalda and Sara aspire to attend school and fulfill their dreams, but are currently unable to do so.
The Taliban, who have imposed an austere interpretation of Islam since coming to power in August 2021, have repeatedly claimed that they will reopen secondary schools for girls once “conditions” have been met, including remodelling the syllabus along Islamic lines. However, the situation is devastating for Afghan girls, who are denied the right to participate in their communities and pursue careers that would ultimately benefit the country’s economy.
Catherine Russell, executive director of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), said that the ban on girls’ education is “absolutely crushing” and has a negative impact on various sectors where women had been making a difference. Russell emphasized that the health system relies on educated women, such as nurses and doctors, and that lifting the ban would benefit both the economy and the dreams of young girls.
The ban on girls’ education in Afghanistan under the Taliban government is the most repressive in the world for women’s rights, according to the United Nations. The UN Assistance Mission to Afghanistan (UNAMA) has urged the authorities to lift the ban and reverse all discriminatory policies against women and girls, stating that they impede the aspirations of half the population and are causing great damage to Afghanistan.
Afghanistan is the only country in the world where girls are prohibited from attending secondary school. Women have also been effectively squeezed out of public life, removed from most government jobs, or paid a fraction of their former salaries to stay at home. They are also barred from public spaces such as parks, fairs, gyms, and public baths, and must cover up in public .