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Afghan Girls and Education: Gender Equity and Global Citizenship in action


by Katrina Edmunds @KatrinaAEdmunds

In my previous blog, we explored the importance of tackling SDG5, why gender equality matters in international schools, what it consists of and how to achieve it. Here we will consider the imperative for international schools to take action and showcase an ongoing project which links gender equality and global citizenship. This project bonds together students from a privileged context, where education is taken for granted, with students from the war-zone of Afghanistan, where girls are fighting for their basic right to go to school, once again.

The CAS project is an excellent way to make a difference. Sadly neglected by university admissions and employers, it is the first information I would seek out of an IB graduate, as it gives insight into the individual’s identity and competences. In supporting students in undertaking gender equity projects, they have impressed me time and time again, with what they have undertaken and produced. One of the most impactful projects I had the pleasure of supervising combined global citizenship with research into gender inequality. This project led the students to learn that an estimated 3.7 million children are out-of-school in Afghanistan and that 60% of them are girls. They also started to appreciate with heavy hearts how easy their walk to the classroom was in contrast to the dangers that Afghan girls face just to get to school. As my 17 year old students researched the cultural burden that Afghan girls bear, from a lack of security to the shackles of domestic chores, the full weight of their privilege weighed down on them.

They asked themselves ‘if we had been born there, which of us would fall in the 17% to have been married before our 15th birthday and possibly already a mother?’, amongst other hard-hitting questions.

We were able to connect with the School of Leadership Afghanistan (SOLA) and the students undertook a series of video conferences where they mutually set the agenda and shared their stories, experiences and aspirations. It was a humbling and memorable experience as these girls were brave, bright and boisterous. They challenged the preconceived ideas of “the veiled girls from a war-torn country” as they shared their ambitious dreams with confidence and fluency in English. They found their common ground in YouTubers and K-Pop, as well as in their discussion of feminism, favourite books and shared role-models. It was powerful. It was the kind of conversation which inspires reflection on who you are, what you value, how you can be better and serve others. Several students continued the connection by becoming Skype tutors. This is global citizenship in action.

It feels particularly poignant to be reflecting on the importance of gender equality in education today. In the wake of the withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan, the Taliban’s power is swelling and education for girls is at risk of being dragged under.

However, I know that there is hope in SOLA. Their founder Shabana Basi Rasikh managed to continue their education throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and will do everything in her power to keep them in education. However, they do now need our support to keep them safe. We know that when girls are educated, the benefits are multifaceted, at the individual level in terms of wellbeing and self-realisation, through to a societal level as a foundation for a healthy economy and the flourishing of all, (UN Women Economic Empowerment report).

In international schools, it is important that we encourage our students to critically analyse what is happening in the world and empower them to be upstanding global citizens. We have a responsibility to ensure that all students understand that empowering women and girls is an important goal and one for the common good. International schools are often educating privileged students and we have an added responsibility to prepare the beneficiaries of privilege to be the equitable leaders of tomorrow who care about sustainable development. While the constitution and community of each international school is unique, every school should be doing the work to ensure that they are holistically delivering an education that promotes gender equity. If we are not proactive, we are just perpetuating the problem. We should all be invested in this challenge, to enable everyone to reach their full potential and to be happy in their own identities. In a future blog, we will look at further examples of gender equity education undertaken, led by the students of the International School of Lausanne.

I look forward to hearing how you are addressing gender equality in your school. If you are in a position to donate or fundraise for SOLA please do so to educate the future female leaders of Afghanistan. In this context, educational scholarships transform lives. Shabana is proof of the power of scholarship through our global support network. 

  • Please Donate or sign up to Skype tutor
    Organise a fund-raising activity
    Learn more via this recent recording of a podcast with Shabana and the New Yorker
    Raise awareness in your community of what is happening in Afghanistan by sharing reports from reliable sources.
    Set up a Gender Equality Society in your school

These girls are Malala, let us keep them out of harm’s way and let them learn.

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The Imperative of Gender Equality Education


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Sunday, 29 January 2023

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