The struggle for higher education gender equity policy in Afghanistan: Obstacles, challenges and achievements

Fred M. Hayward, Razia Karim

Abstract


The struggle for gender equity in Afghanistan has been a long and difficult one under war conditions. Nonetheless, amazing progress has been made both in transforming higher education and in improving the situation for women students and women faculty members over the last few years. What is particularly striking about this effort is the level of success in a very challenging environment. Part of the success, as we suggest, is a consequence of the focus on gender policy in higher education, which operates in an amazingly free environment. That has allowed the kind of analysis and discussion of traditional views about women to be examined and new policies put in place moving toward the MoHE goal of gender equity. Higher education has moved from a situation of virtually no women students, faculty, or staff in 2001 to 28% women students and 14% women faculty members in 2017. The atmosphere for women has changed remarkably with a Higher Education Gender Strategy to continue the process of change and a range of other policies and actions designed to create an open, comfortable, and equal environment for women. What is striking about these changes is that we think their success is due in large part to the narrow focus of change on higher education – a process that probably would not have succeeded if tried at the national level. Nonetheless, it is a first step in expanding improved conditions for women broadly in Afghanistan and is suggestive of a successful approach for other countries with serious problems of gender discrimination.


Keywords


gender equity; Afghanistan; inequities; exclusions; pervasive culture of male dominance; academic freedom; transformation; sexual harassment; admissions examination; violence against women; gender strategy

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.14507/epaa.27.3036

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