CHANHASSEN, Minnesota — On May 24, 2021, Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) introduced S.Res. 229 in response to an attack on a girls’ school in Kabul, Afghanistan, earlier in the month. The conflict between the Afghan government and terrorist groups, such as the Taliban and ISIS, has resulted in increased insecurity. This instability proved especially detrimental for girls whose education has continually been put at risk as a result of the conflict. The Senate resolution addresses the ongoing violence against girls in Afghanistan and reaffirms the United States’s commitment to protecting girls’ education.
Attack on Kabul and Violence Against Women
Senator Shaheen proposed S.Res. 229 following the bombing of Sayed Ul-Shuhada High School, an all-girls school in Kabul, on May 8, 2021. The school provides an education to a large number of Hazara women, a minority group in Afghanistan that terrorist organizations persecuted for a long time.
The conflict between extremist groups and the Afghan government has been on the rise recently after President Joe Biden’s declaration that all American troops will be pulled from Afghanistan by September. This led to power struggles between groups and increased activity of terrorist organizations. Women will suffer the most if any of these extremist groups come into power. Under Taliban rule from 1996 to 2001, girls were not allowed an education or employment. Currently, targeted attacks on schools are cause for concern in terms of violence against girls in Afghanistan.
Girls’ Education Under Continued Conflict
Even outside of Taliban rule, continued instability and cultural practices have prevented girls from obtaining equal access to education. According to an article by Reuters, only a little more than 40% of Afghan citizens are literate; yet, only 30% of Afghan women can read. Likewise, the majority of children not enrolled in school are girls with only 50% of female students finish primary school, according to UNICEF.
Ongoing attacks and violence against girls in Afghanistan have decreased enrollment and threatened educational opportunities. Some families do not wish to send their daughters to school and risk their lives. Those who do attend schools may face school closures due to the violence. In 2018, 192 schools were attacked, a significant jump from 68 attacks in 2017. Other cultural reasons behind the gender disparity in education include child marriages and a lack of menstruation resources, all of which could further jeopardize female education in Afghanistan and, therefore, overall development.
How S.Res. 229 Helps
Senator Shaheen introduced S.Res. 229 in order to support more initiatives for girls’ education and eradicate violence against girls in Afghanistan. The resolution officially acknowledges the attack in Kabul and expresses sympathy to the people of Afghanistan.
The resolution aims to offer solace to the people of Kabul and to stand against violence against women or any circumstance that would prevent girls from receiving an education. Along with declaring that the U.S. will continue to devote resources and aid to girls’ education, the resolution urges the Afghan government to protect girls attending school. The resolution concludes by calling for “international condemnation of violence against Afghan women and girls.” This includes a worldwide effort to assist Afghan girls in securing a “safe education.”
Fighting for the Right to Education
If passed, S.Res. 229 would reassert U.S. efforts to support women’s rights in Afghanistan and establish an international commitment to the safety and opportunity for women. Educating girls and ensuring their well-being is crucial to achieving gender equality. For Afghanistan, this is a key part of development that could provide countless benefits to the country’s society, economy and standard of living. The resolution, which is co-sponsored by senators from both parties, could be a significant step toward more foreign policy addressing violence and gender disparities in education.
Although the conflict in Afghanistan prevents many girls from receiving adequate educational opportunities, S.Res. 229 is a positive development that, if passed, would utilize the resources and influence of the U.S. to stop violence affecting girls in Afghanistan. Ensuring girls’ access to education and establishing safer conditions for all citizens is crucial to development. It is promising that this resolution will allow the U.S. to remain active within these issues and to secure gender equality in Afghanistan.
– Sarah Stolar