Women in Afghanistan are being denied the right to education. When the Taliban resumed power in August 2021, they immediately closed girls’ schools. In the past with the Taliban in power, women did not have access to education, employment, or other basic human rights.
The ruling history of the Taliban in the past, makes it hard to believe that girls will have the opportunity to access education under their rule.
In this article we explore the negative effects of institutionalised gender discrimination. In particular, we examine how the exclusion of women from education impacts them as individuals and the communities they live in. We also touch on the long-term damage that gender inequality inflicts on a society.
Educating Women under Islamic Law
- Exclusion of women from public life
- Systematic destruction of non-Islamic artistic relics
- Implementation of harsh criminal punishments
Denying women Access to Education reduces humanitarian support
In the past, humanitarian support funds enabled:
- Health care
- Governance reforms
Once the Taliban returned to power in August 2021, women were stopped from receiving high school education. Although the Ministry of Education stated that girls above grade 6 will be able to return to school on Wednesday March 23 2022, the decision was reversed after only a few hours of schools being opened.
Until officials are able to create a plan that follows Islamic laws women will not return to schools in Afghanistan.
Afghanistan is receiving external pressures from other countries to allow women back at school. Countries are further cutting funding. Consequently by reducing funding, women’s basic services are being withheld.
Many countries suspended or reduced funding to Afghanistan once the Taliban took over, but there is still humanitarian aid that continues via the UN Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Assistance (UNOCHA). However, if the Taliban does not protect the civil and political rights of Afghans, foreign governments will stop providing economic aid.
Women suffer when denied education and employment
“We are concerned about the continuous and systematic efforts to exclude women from the social, economic, and political spheres across the country”United Nations
Experts have shed light on the fact that there is now an increased risk of exploitation of women and girls. This includes:
- Forced marriages,
- Forced labour
Furthermore, women are unable to work unless there is no mixing of genders. This effectively shuts them out of the workforce.
Lastly, the Ministry of Women’s Affairs, the Independent Human Rights Commission and women’s shelters are institutions created to support vulnerable women. Under Taliban ruling these institutions have shut down until further notice.
The Negative Effects of Discrimination in Education
Suspending women’s education has effects on the individual, the community, as well as the country. Girls’ education strengthens economies and reduces inequalities.
Women’s education means:
- Lifetime earnings of girls dramatically increase
- National growth rates rise
- Decline in child marriage rates
- Decline in child mortality rates
- Decline in maternal mortality rates fall
- Child stunting drops
At an individual/familial level the impacts of not educating women include: child marriage, increased mortality rates, lack of power, and domestic abuse.
Each additional year of secondary education is associated with reducing child marriage. Educated women are less likely to suffer from maternal deaths. Meanwhile, women who can read have children that are more likely to live past the age of 5.
At a larger scale educated women are able to contribute towards the economy via employment. Women with secondary education make two times as much as women with no education. Moreover, women with tertiary education make nearly three times as much than those with no education.
Women make up approximately 50% of the population. The more less-educated women are, the lesser they can contribute to the growth and development of a country.
The Economic Cost of Not Educating Women
Women’s education also boosts economic empowerment. Education results in more job opportunities.
Research states that a women’s education is the most important factor to a child’s life outcomes. Educated women have the ability to lift families, communities and countries out of poverty. In short, the more women employed the less people are driven into poverty.
Some of the many ways by which women and girls’ education can end poverty include:
- Reducing human and sex trafficking
- Preventing malnutrition and illness
- Promoting safe sex and family planning
- Encouraging women to marry later
- Increase income potential
- Poverty reduction and increase in GDP
Working women boost productivity, increase economic diversification, and income equality. By increasing female employment rates the OECD can benefit with 6 trillion dollars. Above all, gender gaps cost the economy 15% of GDP.
Women in Afghanistan have previously held steady professional incomes. But with the right to work being taken away, women are being pushed further into poverty. Many government positions held by women have also been taken away. This has effected the governments efficacy.
Isn’t Educating Women A Basic Right?
The right to education is imperative. According to UNESCO education is a human right for multiple reasons. Education contributes to the development of a fully-rounded human. It is an essential tool in lowering poverty rates and transitioning towards a developed society. Lastly, education reduce gender gaps.
In addition to education being a fundamental human right, girls’ education is a great investment and a strategic development priority. Research shows that girls education has a dramatic effect on development outcomes.
Believe it or not, it has been observed that women’s education can also affect climate mitigation. Research suggests girls’ education can strengthen climate strategies in 3 ways. Firstly by empowering girls and advancing reproductive health rights; Secondly by fostering girls’ climate leadership, Thirdly, by pro-environmental decision-making, and developing girls’ skills for environmental jobs.
The Problem Facing Afghanistan
Although these are steps in the right direction towards mending gender gaps in education – this is still only 37% of teenage girls who can read and write. The Taliban have resumed power and have suspended schooling for girls above grade 6. It can only be assumed that the number of girls with high school education will once again decrease.
The negative effects of girls who do not attain an education have been stressed from an individual and economic standpoint. Girls not attending schools also affects the society.
Impacts of Gender Discrimination
Gender discrimination has impacts on both mental and physical health. These effects have the potential to produce a less productive society.
Psychological Impacts of Gender Inequality
- Post-traumatic stress disorder
- Eating disorders
Physical Impacts of Gender Inequality
The effects of gender discrimination on physical health are both direct and indirect. These effects include:
- Less healthy living conditions
- Injury and death
- Chronic pain
- High blood pressure
Gender discrimination results in a person having worse living conditions. It is possible that a vulnerable population has less access to necessities needed to survive.
Gender Inequality increases violence
In the same vein, discrimination can fester in the form of violence. The stress from violence as well as the violence itself impacts health. Female genital mutilation is one example of violence with serious health complications. Communities that practice female genital mutilation believe that it can make a girl more pure and therefore suitable for marriage.
Unfortunately for Afghan girls all these negative effects are a hard-hitting reality.
Sexism and discrimination also have indirect effects on men. Men who believe they have power over women are more likely to have psychological problems compared to men who portray less masculine expressions. Men in sexist environments/communities also are subject to masculine stereotypes. Consequently men do not seek the necessary help. Unfortunately this can spiral into violence and/or adverse health effects.
Educated Women and Healthcare
Gender discrimination affects everyone’s well-being. If a person experiences discrimination and this damages their health, it has a knock-on effect on their family, friends, and the wider community.
This study from 2018 shows that harassment and discrimination directly affect health outcomes.
Gender discrimination affects healthcare thereby reducing the speed, accuracy and quality of treatment. The effects include:
- Dismissal of symptoms
- Incorrect or delayed diagnoses
- Withholding care
- Obstetric violence
According to this study, women who are exposed to discrimination are less likely to be taken (compared to men) seriously when listing symptoms in a healthcare setting. This leaves women without support and treatment. A doctors capability to dismiss a woman’s symptoms may result in incorrect or delayed diagnoses and subsequently withholding care.
The UN’s Goals for Equality in Education
There are many reasons and benefits to educating women globally. The United Nation Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) demonstrates the necessity for girls education globally. Specifically, in SDG 4: Quality Education and SDG 5: Gender Equality. Both of these goals aim to progress society where all women have the opportunity to quality education.
The Taliban closing girls schools allows for unfortunate individual, societal, and economic implications. Education is a human right which everyone should have access to.
THRIVE is a not-for-profit organization, for-impact organisation. Join the discussion this month in promoting gender equality (SDG 5) and reduced inequalities (SDG 10). Check out our podcasts, webinar, and blogs. To support the THRIVE Project further consider volunteering or donating!