Specific data on women’s literacy in Afghanistan is lacking, but women’s rights activists assert that recent political changes have exacerbated the issue of female illiteracy in the country.
Maryam Maroof Arvin, the head of the Saffron Sunday’s movement and a human rights activist, said that providing primary education for women is crucial and significantly impacts their progress and decision-making.
According to Maryam, in traditional Afghan society, educating women is not a priority in many regions. The primary reasons for women’s deprivation of education over the past two decades are security concerns, economic problems, and traditional cultural values in the country.
This human rights activist emphasizes the need for fundamental changes to eradicate illiteracy among women, highlighting that political factors significantly influence women’s status, and a comprehensive change in mindset and governance is necessary.
Samia Haqju, another women’s rights activist, said education means positive changes in an individual’s thinking and behaviour. Women become aware of their rights through education and active participation in society.
According to her, the literacy rate among women in Afghanistan is meagre, and many women in remote areas have had limited access to education in the past two decades.
According to the latest report published by the Asian Development Bank (ADB), women in Afghanistan are at the lowest literacy level in the world, with only 29.8% of them possessing the ability to read and write.
Zarmina, a 50-year-old village resident near Kabul, says she could not pursue education due to wars, migration, and other difficulties. She is now forced to deal with the consequences of her illiteracy in a challenging life.
She emphasizes the importance of literacy in life and believes that when women are literate, they can make progress. Banning women’s and girls’ education in the country leads to a setback in women’s education.
Zarmina adds that she has never achieved any of her aspirations, and the difficulties in her life due to her lack of education have caused her to suffer from mental illness.
Meanwhile, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) designated September 8th as International Literacy Day in 1967, with the theme “Promoting Literacy for a Sustainable and Peaceful World” celebrated this year.
According to the report published by the organization, approximately 763 million people worldwide are illiterate.
Aisha, a 38-year-old woman who was deprived of education during the initial rise of the Islamic Emirate, says, “I was just beginning to study in a literacy course when the Islamic Emirate came to power, and once again, education was taken away from us, and I felt hopeless.”
Aisha, who has four children, emphasizes that women’s conditions in Afghanistan have never been good from the start, and one of her aspirations is for her sons to be literate and have a bright future.
She has tried to provide an education for her children so that none of them will experience the conditions she has endured.
Aisha, expressing how much they suffer from illiteracy, said, “I want no woman in Afghanistan to remain illiterate, and I hope that the days I experienced will not be the experience of other women.”
Furthermore, two years of denying girls education in schools, universities, and educational courses have significantly impacted the rising illiteracy level in Afghanistan, which some activists believe is “irreversible” for Afghan women.