By: Asim Nawaz Abbasi
The comprehensive onslaught on women’s rights in Afghanistan is unmatched in the world today. The Taliban’s latest announcement of the closure of universities for women, effectively banning them from higher education, is yet another blatant curtailment of their fundamental rights. It is as short-sighted as it is appalling. The right to education for all women and girls must be restored immediately. The statement was issued by Sima Bahous, UN Under-Secretary-General and UN Women Executive Director.
Women have always played a key role in shaping Afghanistan’s development, and in supporting its peace, security and resilience. In the face of incredible challenges, Afghan women have continued to go to university. These institutions were some of the last places where they could come together and continue to learn. To end women’s higher education is to ignore their historical contributions and sever them from their future potential and the potential of their country.
As the Secretary-General stated: the denial of education violates the equal rights of women and girls and will have a devastating impact on Afghanistan’s future. It condemns the country to further economic hardship, suffering and international isolation. Without education, a generation of Afghan women and girls will not have the skills they need to fully contribute to the development of their country. Without education, their pathways to participation and leadership are further constrained, leaving them vulnerable to discrimination and gender-based violence.
UN Women calls on the de facto authorities to immediately restore the full rights of women and girls, which include the right to education, as well as to work and to participate in public life.
What happens to women and girls in Afghanistan is our global responsibility. We must continue to amplify their voices as they resist erasure. In the face of the Taliban’s systematic and deliberate violations of their rights, we as the international community must continue to speak out for, and invest in, the values upon which we stand, in solidarity with our Afghan sisters.