Since the fall of the Taliban, and with the assistance of the international community, Afghan women have secured incredible gains in education, health, civil society, and government — all in a short period of time. As Afghanistan moves through a new period of transition, we must work together to help sustain and expand on these gains. In this blog series, we learn about Afghan women’s experiences – as told in their own words – and remember that we must stand Shoulder-to-Shoulder with Afghan women in their fight for equality and for the peaceful redevelopment of Afghanistan. Share these stories, and your own, on Twitter using #ShoulderToShoulder; you can also take our pledge today to stand with Afghan women.
Thirteen years back – during the dark era of the Taliban – it was merely a dream for Shora Qadiri and other girls to go to school. But now, after the collapse of the Taliban regime and with the help of the international community, Afghan girls are once again attending school, at the primary secondary, and university levels, and they are proving that if given opportunities, they can thrive.
Shohra Qadiri is a shining example. Last month, Qadiri achieved the top score on the Afghan university entrance exam, coming in first among 200,000 male and female students. Receiving the highest score means Qadiri, who is from Balkh province, which was once under Taliban control, will now be able to pick from the best public universities in Afghanistan.
Qadiri’s achievement is a testament to the gains that Afghan women have made during the past thirteen years. More than eight million students are now attending school in Afghanistan, and 40% are female. Ninety-six universities operate in Afghanistan, educating more than 200,000 students each year, and right now, some 20% of these Afghan college students are women.
Several news outlets in Afghanistan reported on Qadiri’s accomplishment, and she has become a hero for other Afghan girls who want to accomplish their dreams for higher education – often under still difficult circumstances. In a video interview with BBC Dari, Qadiri encouraged other girls not to give up on their goals. “There is nothing that can stop you as long as you are determined and have a strong belief in yourself,” she said. “My family and my teachers were my strongest supporters during my academic years.”
Qadiri is only one example, but there are many Afghan girls who have the potential to achieve the kind of academic success that will allow them to play a significant role in the redevelopment of Afghanistan. Afghan women are the backbone of their country; they are half of the population, and without their active contribution, Afghanistan will not be able to flourish. Afghan women are now playing a pivotal role in every sector of Afghan society, the truest sign of progress and positive change in Afghanistan.
That is why it is critical for the US and the international community to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Afghan women. The US and the international community have played a crucial role in assisting Afghan women-led civil society programs and supporting Afghan women’s fight for equal opportunities and the human rights. There have been gains in every sector, but we must assure Afghanistan that we will not now abandon Afghan women and girls, that we will help maintain those gains, and that we will keep up the momentum for positive change.