Kabul, Afghanistan, 21 December 2022 — As the Taliban declares the doors of universities closed to women and girls, the IRC warns that that decades of progress for women's education and freedom are being extinguished.
Elinor Raikes, Vice President of International Programmes for the International Rescue Committee, said,
“Since August last year, reports that girls were being turned away from schools across Afghanistan already represented a catastrophic step backwards for Afghanistan. The near-total ban on women’s university education sets progress back at least twenty years - with lifelong impacts on women’s futures.
“The public role of women in Afghan society will shrink even further as authorities continue to issue edicts limiting their access to work, education and their freedom of movement.
“There are no two ways about it: women and girls must be allowed to work, access education and to move freely. Efforts to rebuild Afghanistan in the wake of economic collapse will be undermined completely; many educated Afghans have already left the country over the last eighteen months. Afghanistan is in urgent need of a future generation of doctors, teachers, civil servants and much more.
“In the last year alone, restrictions on access to work for women have furthered Afghanistan’s failing economy, producing an economic loss of up to $1bn - about 5% of Afghanistan’s GDP. If women are not educated, they will be unable to contribute to the survival of their country.
“This year, the IRC is warning that the guardrails meant to prevent humanitarian crises from spiraling out of control are being weakened or dismantled completely. Afghanistan is a prime example of where this is an acute concern, and the population continues to be exposed to irrevocable harm.”
The IRC's work in Afghanistan
The IRC began work in Afghanistan in 1988, and now works with thousands of villages across twelve provinces, with Afghans making up more than 99% of IRC staff in the country. As Afghanistan struggles to recover from ongoing conflict and natural disasters, the IRC: works with local communities to identify, plan and manage their own development projects, provides safe learning spaces in rural areas, community-based education, cash distribution provides uprooted families with tents, clean water, sanitation and other basic necessities, and helps people find livelihood opportunities as well as extensive resilience programming.