The illiteracy of women has paralyzed half of Afghan society. Without education, women cannot take part in political, economic, and social activities that contribute to building the country. It is impossible to make real improvements with only half of a society. One cannot clap with a single hand. Men cannot build the country without women working shoulder to shoulder. Men cannot bring positive changes without the support of women.
The failure to educate women has been one of the biggest problems resulting from thirty-five years of war in Afghanistan. For example, today, nine out of ten women are illiterate; only forty percent of girls attend school, and only five percent continue school after sixth grade.
War caused many problems for girls, but the worst of it came during the Taliban: girls were viewed as servants, barred from self-improvement.
People were focused on fleeing Afghanistan for survival, not on education. The warlords denied women access to an education along with the Taliban. They misused Islam in saying education was illegitimate for women.
Family ignorance often contributed to the barriers a girl faces in achieving her goals. This ignorance can be considered a kind of cultural ignorance. I am not against all of the wonderful aspects of my country’s culture, but I cannot support traditions that make women the most vulnerable members of our society.
Distrust of education
In some parts of Afghanistan, families strongly believe that if a girl goes to school she will no longer respect her family, or she will no longer accept her father or brother as the dominant members of the family. The families believe girls who go to school are not good girls. It is hard for them to accept the power a woman can possess, or that women are equal to men. Some of them think education for girls is a Western influence.
Family economy is another reason why most families do not send their daughters to school or they marry them off at a young age. Most of the families in Afghanistan are poor and cannot afford education for their children. The research shows that forty-two percent of Afghans live below the poverty line, and twenty percent are on the poverty line.
Families who cannot afford to educate all their children give priority to their boys. They assume the girls will marry and go to live with their husbands’ families. The boys will be the ones to take care of them when they get older.
“Educate women and you educate a nation,” says Dr. Sue Black, a British computer scientist and blogger.
If we want to rebuild our country we need educated women. Women need education to help their families and improve the economic situation. If we want equality and we want to eliminate violence and have a stable economy, we must improve the education of women.
By Hila G.
Photo by U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Ashley N. Avecilla, Paktika Provincial Reconstruction Team Public Affairs