SEATTLE — Gender inequality is a major issue around the world, particularly in poorer countries looking to develop. In Afghanistan, the fight for women’s rights is alive and well.
Improving gaps in gender equality is a great way for impoverished countries to start on the path to development as more women become educated, enter the workforce and generate capital for their country. Technically, men and women in Afghanistan have equal rights under the law, but in practice, women still face extreme discrimination and segregation.
In Afghanistan, it is still considered taboo for a woman to be in public without wearing a burqa, and two-thirds of female employment includes unpaid family work or various agricultural positions. In many cases, having women in the workforce is a last resort for families due to its negative connotation.
One of the many challenges facing women in Afghanistan is early marriages. The practice of forced, early marriages in Afghanistan often arises from the needs of poor families. It is sometimes a last resort for families that are struggling to make ends meet.
Despite many challenges facing women’s equality in Afghanistan, strides in education have been the biggest success for the country in the post-Taliban era. In 2001, fewer than 900,00 children in Afghanistan attended school, most of them boys. In 2016, the number had increased to nine million children, with girls making up almost half that number.
Many non-governmental organizations both in and outside of Afghanistan are working to improve rights for women across the country.[hr_invisible]
Razia’s Rays of Hope Foundation
Razia’s Rays of Hope Foundation is a nonprofit organization in Afghanistan that focuses on empowering women through community-based education. Their largest project is the Zabuli Education Center, a free K-12 school for girls right outside of Kabul Province. The school is the first of its kind in the village of Deh’Subz.
Afghanistan native Razia Jan founded the school in 2008 after coming to the United States for college and living here for a number of years. She funds the school with the help of a variety of private donors, mostly from the United States.
Jan resurrected the former all-boys school with the help of donations from her small town in Massachusetts. The first donation came from best-selling Afghan author of The Kite Runner Khaled Hosseini. When the school first opened there were 109 students. As of 2016, that number was more than 600 with lower dropout rates.
The foundation is working to open more schools and outlets for girls looking to pursue an education. One of their latest projects is the Razia Jan Institute, the first women’s post-secondary school rural Afghanistan has seen. The post-secondary institute sits right next to the Zabuli Education Center.[hr_invisible]
Many other organizations are working to improve education for women in Afghanistan in hopes to reduce widespread poverty across the country. Aid organizations like UNICEF and USAID are working to establish community-based schools and provide teachers with the resources they need to educate children successfully. Other programs like the Louis and Nancy Dupree Foundation work to provide schools in Afghanistan with resources like textbooks.[hr_invisible]
The Future for Women in Afghanistan
Women’s education in Afghanistan has skyrocketed in recent years and is continuing to grow. Activists both in Afghanistan and around the world hope this is a good sign for overall poverty reduction and bridging the gap between the male and female populations.
– Sonja Flancher