Opinion | Women’s rights in Afghanistan: a reminder of how female education unlocks the doors to opportunity and success


Maria Mulder, Spanish and Portugese, Third year

As Western troops withdrew from Afghanistan last month, we saw an unexpectedly quick takeover of the country by the Taliban. These developments have sparked some thought about what the implications of this will be for human rights in Afghanistan – in particular, for those of women and girls.

This transition has reminded us of how vital female education is to not only individual liberty, but also to encouraging stability and prosperity around the planet.

Democracies such as Canada, European nations and Australia are good examples of the strides a society can make when women are given access to the same opportunities and rights as men.

We must not forget the brutal nature of former Taliban rule in Afghanistan over twenty years ago, where women were not only banned from education after eight years of age, but also employment.

Among other restrictions, they also could not even leave their homes without wearing a burqa and having a male relative accompany them. Furthermore, they lacked representation in public life – depictions of women in ads or even references to women in place names were forbidden. Defiance of these rules would lead to extreme forms of punishment, such as beatings and executions.

education is vital to tackling such issues

Whilst the Taliban had implied that all of this was for the benefit of women and girls, it is clear that oppressing half of a given population is an effective way to keep them perpetually impoverished and controlled. This was another global instance of a lost battle against misogyny.

Even nowadays, the Taliban maintains the spirit of its former regime by banning female sports and recently suggesting that women should ‘Give birth’ instead of working in government.

Education is vital to tackling such issues. It not only equips people with the tools they need to enter the workforce, but also helps to break a number of harmful cycles, providing women with hope for the future.

Such cycles include those of poverty, ignorance, poor health and forced marriages, amongst others. These factors are oftentimes interconnected; the living standards we take for granted here in the UK, for example, are directly linked to the realisation of gender equality.

As is highlighted in the following article Importance of Girls' Education Around the World, the impact of just one girl having had the fortune to enjoy a high-quality upbringing is generational. This means that it promotes a ‘Ripple effect of positive change in the community and country’.

communities with significant numbers of highly educated women are less prone to conflict

A few examples of this include the fact that a child born to a literate mother is more likely to live past the age of five. Another is that girls who have gone through secondary school are several times less likely to become child brides – thereby allowing them to carve more of an independent path for themselves in life.

Additionally, those who have received a secondary education tend to bear children later and have smaller families – both factors that increase children’s wellbeing and their chances of a secure future.

Lastly, communities with significant numbers of highly educated women are less prone to conflict and more resilient to disasters and threats. Using the ongoing COVID-19 crisis as an example: according to research, younger and less educated women were likelier to have children who had not been sufficiently immunised.

Therefore, how do we effectively manage and end this current pandemic if many women internationally were never taught about the value of vaccination? By extension, their children too will be raised in such a state of ignorance, perpetuating this vicious cycle.

Such a scenario should highlight to readers how female oppression can have devastating snowball effects.

Ultimately, Women’s socioeconomic, political and/or intellectual deprivation – whether perpetuated by a terrorist regime or not – is the norm for many women around the globe. So many of our foreign sisters are still in the battlefield when it comes to their most basic of freedoms and opportunities.

Therefore, let the latest events in Afghanistan not only serve as an important reminder of our relative positions of privilege at home, but the cruciality of women’s overall empowerment to building an ever stronger and more peaceful world.

Featured image: Unsplash / Ehimetalor

What are your views on the latest events in Afghanistan? Let us know!


Maria Mulder

Third year student at the University. Of mixed Lithuanian and Dutch heritage and settled in the UK, I am currently working towards a Modern Languages degree.