Afghan girls have endured significant education discrimination due to the Taliban’s formal ban on secondary education, with orders for re-opening schools to only boys, while ordering girl students to remain at home for over a year.
September 18 marked the first anniversary of girls’ education deprivation, one of the Taliban’s hard-line policies seen as “shameful” and “tragic” by the United Nations (UN), affecting millions of young Afghan girls.
The political unrest in Afghanistan resulted in the dissolution of some youth movements, but others, like the Afghan Youth Empowerment Camp (AYEC), a youth-led organization with the mission of enhancing youth capacity, particularly that of women and girls, took on the task of keeping the learning wheel turning.
AYEC established an online English language program, English for Afghan Women (E4AW), utilizing innovative distance-learning approaches for Afghan girls and women who had to endure isolation and closed schools. Since English proficiency is the main objective of the program, from elementary to intermediate levels, it allows 100s of female students to learn English remotely.
Samina Razmjo, 18, is one of the many girls who have been denied the opportunity to attend school, but she is one of the students who do not see this as a barrier to learning as she attends AYEC.
Samina explained to Khaama Press how her life as an Afghan girl and a student has changed as a result of the Taliban takeover. “While going to school has become a distant dream for us, I am appreciative of AYEC for offering us online English classes where we study, make friends, communicate, and have fun for an hour,” Ramzjo added.
With a focus on sustainable development goals (SDGs), project management, and extracurricular activities, AYEC has developed several youth empowerment programs, including youth empowerment camps, training, workshops, and motivational programs both in-person and online.
Firoz Sidiqy, Mehdia Sadat, and Nawid Soofizada founded the non-governmental, charitable organization AYEC in 2019 with the goal of strengthening Afghan youth. Here are the messages of each of the AYEC co-founders given below:
Currently, the people in Afghanistan are in dire need of support by any means. Particularly women are deprived of their fundamental human rights. They are not allowed to go to school or work outside their homes. Also, many humanitarian crimes are being committed daily with no media coverage. I ask the international community not to forget the millions of people in Afghanistan who are struggling in a lamentable situation with no hope for the future.Nawid Soofizada, Co-founder of AYEC
We are all together in this pain. With the takeover of Afghanistan by the Taliban in August 2021, many lives have been changed and Afghan women are those who have been negatively affected the most. Girls’ ban on schools, offices, and educational centers is one of the most concerning issues regarding the education of women in Afghanistan. As fellow Afghans, it is our sincere honor to be able to mitigate the negative impacts of the current government on women’s education.Mehdia Sadat, Co-founder of AYEC
Taliban have never adhered to moral and humanitarian principles and we have witnessed this during the consolidation of their governance in Afghanistan. In my opinion, if the international community keeps their eyes closed on the issue of Afghanistan and does not take any practical action, this oppression will continue, and Afghan women will not stop fighting by losing their lives, and this tragedy will be recorded in the world. Although the decision of the Taliban regarding the banning schools to Afghan girls faced international condemnation and the heads of the United States, Canada, the European Union, and other countries condemned it but you know condemnation alone is not the solution.Firoz Sidiqy, Co-founder of AYEC
Even while distance learning happens, with a strong will and dedication, a variety of challenges put these youth-led, life-saving projects in jeopardy of ceasing to exist, mainly financial impediments.
Organizations that used to assist such initiatives have closed since the Taliban took control of the Afghan government; those that remain are now solely managed on a volunteer basis and without outside funding, while poverty and unemployment in Afghanistan are at record highs.
Afghanistan is the only country on earth that bans the education of half of its population in secondary schools due to the Taliban’s edict regarding girls’ schools. This, together with other draconian measures of the Taliban against Afghan women, contributes to the precarious economic situation, already-rocketed poverty, and isolation of Afghanistan.
A UN report says that due to the Taliban’s failure to fulfill various promises to allow girls to return to school, over a million Afghan girls—mostly between the ages of 12 and 18—have been denied access to education.
The fate of a young generation of girls remains uncertain for over a year despite the calls from the international community on the Taliban to re-open schools for girls. Not even girl students’ protest helped their return to a classroom, a dream shared by all Afghan girls. Instead, the protestor students were scattered by aerial shootings of the gun-wielding Taliban fighters.
The international community has even made the reopening of school gates one of the prerequisites for the Taliban’s international recognition. At the same time, the message of the Afghan youth is clear, and that is that education must continue.