Friday, 14 January 2011

Education for Women in Afghanistan

I welcome the news, yesterday, that Farooq Wardak, one of Hamid Karsai's ministers, has reportedly said that the Taliban are lifting their ban on education for women and girls and that this indicates a cultural and behavioural shift on their part. They have not (and probably will not) anounce anything themselves but this statement seems in line with the fact that, since the draconian bans in the 1990's, there has been a drift back to educating girls at the insistance of local populations. For example, in Chadara, in the Taliban dominated Kunduz province, there are said to be a considerable numbers of girls' schools.

Western feminists and campaigners for women's human rights are often accused of misunderstanding Islamic culture and trying to impose unwanted patterns of behaviour on a culture they don't appreciate and which is far more subtle and nuanced than we, in the West, often understand. There are values about community and family and about educating the sexes separately that are at odds with the values of a liberal western democracy. I  hope and pray that any peace deal which is eventually done in Afghanistan does not, in practice, jeopardize the access of women to education and health care and does not threaten their ability to earn a living or curtail their access to a justice system that defends them from abuse. It is vital, therefore, that any such peace process is shaped by the educated views of the women of the region and that their voices are heard. Peace processes that are negotiated and imposed on the women of Afghanistan by all male groups, or by western diplomacy are not going to work. So, a return to education for all girls is, at least, a step in the right direction.

Societies and groups where decisions about the way general life is ordered are made without the direct contribution of women seem to me to lack a roundedness and a charity and, often, to overlook information and perspectives that are pertinent. We have plenty of examples of this in the Christian churches down the ages. Yet the wisdom tradition within the Judaeo-Christian tradition has always portrayed Wisdom as both male and female and has imaged Wisdom as a woman, in a way that gives as central a place to specifically female concerns and social perceptions as to those of men. 

For more information about women in Afghanistan Put 'Afghanistan' in the search box (near the bottom of the page) - this brings up lots of articles.

Help women in Afghanistan

Did you know that U.N. Security Council Resolution 1325, passed on 31st October 2000 calls for women to participate equally in all processes of conflict resolution, peacemaking and reconciliation?   


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