Afghanistan: Demanding Access to Education

The ProblemGirls in a classroom - c. Shuhada

In Afghanistan today, women’s education is under attack by ultra-conservatives opposed to modernity, women’s rights and democratization. They are attacking girls who dare to attend school.

UN estimates put school attendance in Afghanistan at about 6 million children, 35 percent of whom are girls. Of the children who are able to attend school, half have no real school buildings but go to classes in tents.

Girls walking to or from school risk being assaulted with acid. Teachers have been killed and parents who allow girls to attend school have been attacked.

87 percent of Afghan women are illiterate and only 30 percent of girls have access to education. A public call for education for women is considered blasphemous.


The Solution

MADRE is working to provide Afghan girls and women with safe learning environments so that they can exercise their right to education.

MADRE’s local partner, Shuhada, has established schools for women throughout the Central Highlands of Afghanistan. During the Taliban regime, when girls’ education was illegal, Shuhada ran underground schools for girls in Kabul. Today, with MADRE’s support, Shuhada is constructing and renovating schools for girls; offering literacy training to women; and bringing human rights education into communities in order to transform their society from within.


The Results

  • Young women throughout the Central Highlands are learning far more than just reading and writing – they are learning to value their own lives, their intelligence and their education.
  • Many young women who graduate from high school have the opportunity to continue on to attend Kabul University and other institutions of higher education.
  • Access to education is changing attitudes. Parents who were initially anxious about sending their young girls to school are now doing everything within their power to ensure their daughters have continued access to education.
  • When families have access to education for children in their own villages and communities, the Taliban have less power to recruit young men by offering schooling that would have otherwise been unavailable.