The Taliban broke their promise to the world

By Shabana Basij-Rasikh, founder of the School of Leadership, Afghanistan (SOLA)

Six weeks ago, on the morning of Wednesday 23 March, I sat at home heartbroken. Devastated. Furious. That morning I spent hours scrolling through images from Afghanistan and, in those images, I saw Afghan teenage girls in their new school uniforms, standing outside their school gates, in tears.

Six weeks ago, the Taliban broke their promise to the world and declared that girls in Afghanistan will not be allowed to attend school beyond grade 6. On that day, they told millions of Afghan girls the same thing that, nearly 25 years ago, they told girls like me: you don’t matter. When it comes to your nation’s future, you don’t exist. And today, just like during their first regime 25 years ago, the Taliban underestimate who they are talking to.

I am an educator of Afghan girls. My daily work, my life’s work, is to provide these girls with a safe learning environment – a place where they can become the critical thinkers and leaders who know that they have the power to shape their nation’s future.

This happens at the school I co-founded: the School of Leadership, Afghanistan, or SOLA, for short. We are the first and only boarding school for Afghan girls, and in a society where, even prior to the Taliban’s return, 60% of out-of-school children were girls, and where only 5% of women were accessing tertiary education compared to 14% of men – SOLA’s Kabul campus was a place where girls learned that they mattered. As students, as young women, as Afghans: they mattered.

I joined the launch event for the 2022 GEM Gender Report, showing how instrumental actors outside of government can be in the move toward gender equality in education. In times of war or crisis, non-state actors, including NGOs like SOLA, play a key role in championing gender equality in and through education.

SOLA is and always will be an organization of Afghans working for the future of their own country. We aim to provide each girl with the opportunity to live with, and learn from, a diverse community of classmates – and today, our mission is more urgent than ever.

We have operated in Rwanda since the Taliban took Kabul last summer, and this fall we intend to enrol a new class of students drawn from the Afghan refugee diaspora – girls who today are spread around the world in refugee camps, with little to no access to education.

We intend to reach them, but we can’t do it alone. The eyes of the world must not waver from Afghanistan – because if you look away, Afghanistan will move even further from true gender equality. We will move even further from the day when we can celebrate progress, as so many other countries are doing today. As the GEM 2022 Gender Report says, ignoring Afghan girls today could send us back 20 years.

Now, more than ever, we need the support of the international community to speak out against governments who deprive whole populations of the right to an education. The Taliban’s decision, six weeks ago today, is a violation of the rights of women and girls. I will not stand by and let this happen. I am certain you won’t, either.


1 comment

  1. Girls in Afghan should be given equality in education and in all aspects in public. These girls are disciplined. Problem on girls with other countries or let me say women are almost the one making decisions instead of submitting themselves to their husbands.

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