Afghanistan has notoriously become the world's only country where girls are forbidden from attending secondary school and higher education solely because of their gender. Niagara University’s Vincentian Center for Justice presented a panel discussion on this topic March 8, 2023, led by three Afghan women who have worked within government and taught both women and men at the secondary and university level.
Panelists Tamana Dawi, Farida Razaqi, and Narges Kazemi offered their insight and experience on the impact the Taliban has had on the lives of Afghan women since it regained power in that country in 2021.
Dawi, a graduate student in NU’s Interdisciplinary Studies Program, worked as director of Protected Areas in Afghanistan’s Ministry of Agriculture and as an international conventions specialist for Afghanistan’s National Environmental Protection Agency. She noted that 1.1 million girls over the age of 12 have been denied access to formal education since September 2021, and compared what was happening now to the restrictions that were imposed from 1996 until 2001, when the Taliban first ruled Afghanistan. She cautioned that, if history serves as a guide, the Taliban will continue to restrict the freedom of women.
Dawi has a master’s degree in environmental science from the University Kebangsaan of Malaysia, and a bachelor’s degree in geosciences from Kabul University, Afghanistan.
Razaqi, the program specialist for cultural and international issues at UB’s School of Law and the inaugural Environmental Justice Fellow and Afghan Scholar-in-Residence at Niagara University, continued the conversation by showing videos of women protesting the Taliban’s restrictions to education, and the risks they took to do so.
“The Taliban want to erase women from society,” she said. “We need more than statements, more than words, we need actions. We have resistance in Afghanistan, but we need the support of the international community.”
Razaqi is a Fulbright Scholar and has taught environmental law at Herat University and Jami University.
Kazemi is a liberal arts major who worked as an English teacher while a high school student. In an emotional presentation, she explained that although she has happy memories of living in Afghanistan, she now thinks of the Taliban when she thinks of her home country. She spoke of the bravery of the women who were protesting the Taliban and suggested several ways to support them, including advocacy and raising awareness of the situation; taking their voices to the international community; building alliances to fund their education and make technology available for online learning; offering resources to organizations in Afghanistan that are aligned with the activists and protection for the women, themselves.
Kazemi, who has a bachelor’s degree in economics from Rosary College in India, has taught with Global Girls Glow, an American organization that supports young girls to assert their rights and become future leaders, and worked as an intern journalist for Reuters News Network.
Several women in Afghanistan shared their stories via Zoom following the panelists, and a question and answer session concluded the event.