The Danger of Education. Female Empowerment under the Taleban Threat in Afghanistan

Term Paper, 2015

20 Pages, Grade: 1,7


Abstract ... 2
Introduction ... 3
Education as a Development Strategy for Female Empowerment ... 4
Muslim Extremist Rhetoric on Gender Segregation and Female Education ... 7
Situation of Girls' Education in Afghanistan ... 11
Conclusion ... 16
Resources ... 18

Education is a key aspect of development. Aside from furthering a country's human capital, it
can be used as a way to empower women. Therefore education can be a central tool to
empower women in developing countries. Taking the example of Afghanistan, the paper
theorises how education can empower women, especially in the context of religious gender
segregation and oppression. In the context of Afghan history, the role of the Taleban is
discussed and the importance of ongoing security threat through the extremists is portrayed.
Aside from that the paper offers an overview over the current educational situation in
Afghanistan and possible approaches towards a higher enrolment of children in school,
especially girls.

Everywhere around the world where women have claimed their place in the academics
and in the world of education they were in many cases welcomed with hostility and often
outright violence. If not that they at least had to battle structural and personal discrimination
based on their gender. Nevertheless in the Western world and many developing countries,
formal education has opened the doors for women into positions of power or simply pathed
their ways to new opportunities and independence in their societies.
Hence while attempting to gain education can be dangerous for women, the effect it has
on the patriarchal structures is even more severe. In this context it is neither surprising that
education is a major factor in development strategies as well as a suppressing it a cornerstone
of patriarchal regimes.
This paper examines these correlations in the context of the Islamic Republic of
Afghanistan current situation in female education with regard to the Taleban threat.
Looking at education as a development strategy for female empowerment, it is explained
how development and gender equality are connected. Furthermore it is constructed in what
way education can contribute to empowerment, using the logic of the empowerment approach
referred to by Caroline Moser on the account of Gender Planning. To bolster the importance
of empowerment in a development context examples from other possibilities of empowerment
are used.
To give contextual background to the current situation in Afghanistan as well as to clarify
the stance of the Taleban on female education and a woman's place in society, a brief history
of education and women's role over the last 100 years is given.
Furthermore, drawing on papers on the development of education in Afghanistan and
statistics from various sources, an overview over the current situation in Afghanistan is given.
Topics are the Taleban threat as well as the educational structures, like schools, personnel and
management along with a short reflection on the importance of empowerment in that context.

Finally, upon the description of current situation conclusions are drawn in what way
development agencies and other NGOs might be able to contribute to better the situation in
Education as a Development Strategy for Female Empowerment
Education is central to human development. It is seen as one of the basic indicators for
human well-being used in the Human Development Index (UNDP, 2014, p. 160), while
achieving Universal Primary Education is the second of the eight Millennium Goals.
Education is related to many other development goals. Education can break the cycle of
poverty and offer children a better life, working towards erasing poverty. At the same time a
higher level of education correlates with better employment and better pay, as well as it
provides a human and academic infrastructure to build a sustainable economy. Aside from
that, education can help in fighting diseases, making people more knowledgeable of illness,
treatment possibilities and prevention of diseases of many kinds in the first place. Education is
also important when building a sustainable civil society. While movements from all over the
globe, from all of human history, show that people without high levels of education can be
conscious and critical, a knowledgeable civil society is important to ensure all people's access
to the political sphere. On a more basic level knowledge of language, writing and
mathematics, makes it easier for people to navigate everyday life, while making them less
vulnerable to exploitation. Specific knowledge in crafts and trades elevates people's abilities
to generate income or products and materials for their own needs.
While education is a goal for human development in general, it is also a major factor of
gender equality (World Bank, 2012, p. 104). Access to education is gendered and the gap in
education in most developing countries is in favour of boy's and men's education. In 2014
only 5.8% of women had had some secondary education between 2005 and 2012, while it was
34% of men, landing Afghanistan all in all on rank 150 of 182 countries (UNDP, 2014, p.

174). A similar pattern can be seen in many other countries. The Gender Inequality Index
shows the importance of education by taking the differences of male and female education
into consideration (UNDP, 172). The reasons for the inequality in access to education are
diverse and are often correlated with the history, traditions and current situation of the
Furthermore, while education is essential to human development, so is gender equality. In
the 2012 World Development Report the World Bank states: "gender equality matters
intrinsically, because the ability to live the life of one's own choosing and be spared from
absolute deprivation is a basic human right and should be equal for everyone, [...]" (p. 3).
Statistics show that gender equality does not simply elevate the well-being and opportunities
of women but contributes to the development of the whole society. Looking at the Gender
Inequality Index (UNDP, 2014, p. 172) or the Global Gender Gap Report by the World
Economic Forum (2014, p. 8), the countries with the least gender inequality and the smallest
gender gaps overlap with those countries with the highest Human Development Index
(UNDP, 2014, p. 160) and/or the happiest countries according to the World Happiness Report
(Helliwell, Layard & Sachs, 2015, p. 26).
Educating women is a central task towards gender equality in developing countries, just as
it is in developed ones. Education offers women possibilities to better their and their families'
economic standing (World Bank, 2012, p. 3). In countries with little employment
opportunities for women, especially low class women, these possibilities are particularly
important for women-headed households. Additionally, education correlates with lower
maternal mortality rates and better health for children (World Bank, 2012, p. 106). Last but
not least education can be a pathway to political consciousness and activism in civil society
and the public sphere. While people can be aware of their oppression or marginalised standing
in society, education can offer enlightenment to women about their rights and can offer tools
and means to rally and demand better treatment and opportunity. Last but not least general

education is important on many levels for women and their families in everyday life. These
can be simple things like reading a bus schedule or more important affairs like dealing with
bureaucracy or getting a loan.
Aside from that, education can be a powerful weapon for women's empowerment in the
context of patriarchy. In her text on gender planning in the third world, Caroline Moser
presents the empowerment approach in development. Following the argumentation of
feminists from developing countries, she states that the approach "seeks to empower women
through the redistribution of power within, as well as between, societies" (Moser, 1989, p.
1815). Empowerment and power is seen here as "the capacity of women to increase their own
self-reliance and internal strength" (Moser, 1989, p. 1815). Fulfilling practical gender needs,
according to this approach, is one way to bring structural change or to fulfil strategic gender
needs. Education can be seen as such a practical gender need. It fulfils the need for knowledge
immediately and improves women's every-day life and opportunities. On a strategic basis
equal education for men and women can level the playing field and offer women access to
many spheres they would be secluded from other wise. Therefore it works against women's
subordination to men.
Education is of course not the only way to empower women, but what effect
empowerment has on women is similar no matter the mechanism. Women in the Bangladeshi
garment industry empowered themselves through paid work, gaining a voice in their families,
independence through the payment and more confidence and self-reliance through their new
found autonomy (Kaber, 2004, p. 150). Self-employed women in India unionised creating
SEWA and found strength and empowerment through their collective power and opportunity,
building up a whole movement that was able to offer more and more to their members and
their families (Datta, 2003, p. 355-357). Women in the Gambia had the possibility through
development projects to work their own crops and earn more money, becoming more
independent financially from their husbands (Schroeder, 1996, p. 74-76). Even though that
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The Danger of Education. Female Empowerment under the Taleban Threat in Afghanistan
Women, Gender and Development
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gender, development studies, afghanistan
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Sian Birkner (Author), 2015, The Danger of Education. Female Empowerment under the Taleban Threat in Afghanistan, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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