Institute for War and Peace Reporting | Giving Voice, Driving Change
Women in Eastern Afghanistan Demand Education
Women in the eastern Afghan province of Nangarhar complain that local government officials have reneged on promises to provide them with adult education courses.
Nangarhar has 572,000 boys and 330,000 girls enrolled in nearly 900 schools. On the one hand, the high figures are the fruit of efforts to rebuild the education system since the fall of the Taleban regime in 2001. On the other, the gender imbalance in the attendance rates reflects conservative values and security problems in more isolated parts of the province that still prevent some girls from going to school.
Many adults, again women in particular, have never had a chance to get a high-school-level education, and would like education programmes that target them.
“After [former president Hamed] Karzai’s government was established, we had many expectations, and we thought proper attention would be paid to our lives,” Sajida, from Nangarhar’s Kama district, told IWPR. “But our hopes were not fulfilled.”
Sajida never learned to read because her family did not believe education was important for girls.
Another woman, Nafas Gul, called on officials to improve provisions.
“The government should increase literacy courses for adult women,” she said. “It should provide educational opportunities in every village so that we are no longer illiterate.”
A third Nangarhar resident, Bas Bibi, said women who could read and write were not only able to contribute to household income but also made better mothers.
She criticised the provincial administration and its education department, dismissing claims that adult women had opportunities to study were false.
Hashima Sharif, head of the women’s advocacy section of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission in Nangarhar, agreed that existing provision was wholly inadequate.
“Women are still facing obstacles to their education both in the city and in more remote areas,” she said. “The government should focus more on this issue, so that any woman can get an education if she wants to.”
Sabera, acting head of the provincial department for women’s affairs, said that approximately 60 per cent women in Nangarhar had no access to education.
Mohammad Ikram Ishaqzai, head of literacy programmes in Nangarhar, acknowledged that more could be done to help women, but he insisted that more than 3,000 women were currently attending literacy classes and special schools had been set up. Of the more than 2,600 who had graduated from these schools so far, 14 had gone on to university.
Ishakzai said women’s literacy projects were running in four of Nangarhar’s 22 districts – Khewa, Kama, Sorkhrud and Behsud – and there were plans to expand.
Nangarhar’s deputy governor Mohammad Hanif Gerdiwal said he was encouraged by the fact that more and more women wanted to return to education. He promised that more adult education courses would be set up.
“It is a good thing that illiterate women want to study,” he continued. “We welcome it. The relevant agencies will coordinate with each other and extend their work in the future.”
Emal Zaher is a student at Nangarhar University and an IWPR-trained reporter.
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