The latest: Thursday marked an important day for Afghan women and their struggle to survive in a society which is governed by a group intent on erasing them from society. The first-ever international conference on Afghan Women’s Education was held in Bali, Indonesia on December 8. So, overall, 38 countries, four international organizations, nine NGOs and businesses, nine prominent women figures and academics participated in the conference.
- The conference was held with the aim to reaffirm support to all Afghan people without exception; to reaffirm our support to the rights of women, in particular education for women; to identify gaps and gather resources to support women’s education in Afghanistan; and to design ways forward.
- Indonesia and Qatar were the co-organisers of the conference. The conference noted that women and girls were key to the development, peace and prosperity of Afghanistan. Ensuring their full, equal and meaningful participation in the society will enable Afghanistan to achieve its full potential. The statement added that serious efforts and concrete actions must be taken to broaden opportunities and access for Afghan women and girls to equally benefit from formal education at all levels and various methods of learning, including in-person, virtual and distance learning methods.
- Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi said, “I firmly believe investing in women means investing in a brighter future, given the opportunity women can make a critical contribution to society.”
- Marsudi said that creating conducive conditions for women’s participation in Afghan society was of critical importance, and urged participants to “encourage progress to establish an inclusive government that respects women’s rights” and “guarantee education for all.”
- The conference was a “good stepping stone,” Qatar’s assistant foreign minister, Lolwah Rashid Al-Khater, told participants at the Bali meeting.
- “One message for the international community: Education is a basic right for all … and it’s important for myself and my colleagues as well — me as a Muslim woman — to confirm that this is not part of a faith; preventing women from their basic rights is not part of the faith,” Al-Khater said.
- “It is our obligation as Muslim-majority countries to confront that and to say to any actors that this does not represent us, this does not represent the faith of Islam.”
- The organisers of the conference are working together on a scholarship program dedicated to Afghan people and plan to create economic opportunities through microloans. The two governments are also keen on facilitating policies that would connect the Afghan private sector to their international counterparts.
- The statement said that women and girls in Afghanistan continue to face challenges, including their limited access to education, health facilities, freedom of movement, and working opportunities. While some of the challenges are faced by the population as a whole due to restrictive policies in Afghanistan, women and girls are disproportionately affected.
- Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari has said that Pakistan strongly supports all efforts aimed at promoting the well-being and prosperity of the Afghan people. He said it is important that education can be obtained by women in order for them to participate in decision making. He stressed on the need for concrete and practical assistance programs benefiting a cross section of the Afghan society.
- The international community also showed strong support for intra-Afghan dialogue towards durable peace in Afghanistan, and necessary steps to improve the quality of life for Afghan women and girls, according to a statement.
Zoom out: Afghan girls and women have been facing growing uncertainty since the Taliban took control of the country last year, with an estimated 3 million secondary school girls kept out of school for more than a year.
- According to UN Women, more than 11 million Afghan women and girls are in dire need of humanitarian assistance. And the data from UNDP says that restrictions on women could cost Afghan’s economy of USD 1 billion or 5% of its GDP.
- So, while the World Economic Forum’s Gender Gap Index 2021 puts Afghanistan last out of 156 countries. With this situation, the world cannot choose to remain idle.
One of the efforts taken together by Indonesia and Qatar, was the Trilateral Ulemas Meeting with Afghan ulemas in Doha in June this year.