The United States envoy to the United Nations, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, has raised alarm over the ongoing ban on female education in Afghanistan. Speaking at a UN Security Council meeting on Women, Peace, and Security, Thomas-Greenfield condemned the Taliban’s decision to prevent girls from attending school and warned of the dire consequences such a policy could have on Afghan women and girls.

Afghanistan has been plagued by conflict for decades, with women and girls often the primary victims of violence, discrimination, and barriers to their education. Despite strides towards gender equality being made after the fall of the Taliban in 2001, the group’s resurgence in recent years has led to a rollback of women’s rights, including the right to education. The Taliban have long used education as a tool to perpetuate their ideology and stifle dissent, viewing girls’ education as a threat to their conservative beliefs.

The latest ban on female education in Afghanistan comes as the Taliban have consolidated their grip on the country following the withdrawal of US and NATO troops. In August 2021, the Taliban issued an order that prevented girls from attending school beyond the age of 12, stating that co-education was against Islamic principles. The ban has since been partially lifted, but female students continue to face numerous obstacles, including segregated classrooms, limited course offerings, and the threat of violence from extremist groups.

The US envoy to the UN warned that the ban on female education in Afghanistan could have far-reaching consequences, not just for women and girls but also for the country’s stability and security. “When half the population is denied the right to learn, the whole country suffers,” she said. “Education is not just a fundamental human right, it is also essential to economic growth, political stability, and social progress.”

Thomas-Greenfield emphasized that the international community had a duty to support Afghan women and girls in their pursuit of education and urged the Taliban to respect their rights. She called on the group to “demonstrate genuine commitment to women’s education” by allowing girls to attend school, supporting their access to education, and providing a safe and secure learning environment.

The US envoy to the UN is not alone in raising concerns about the ban on female education in Afghanistan. Numerous human rights organizations, activists, and governments have spoken out against this policy, highlighting the devastating impact it could have on girls’ futures and the country’s development. The UN’s Special Representative on Children and Armed Conflict has warned that the ban could lead to a rise in child marriage, trafficking, and other forms of exploitation, while the UN’s Secretary-General has called for an end to violence against women and girls in Afghanistan.

The Taliban have shown some willingness to engage with the international community in recent weeks, with representatives meeting with officials from China, Russia, and Pakistan, among others. However, the group’s track record on women’s rights and education remains dismal, and there is growing concern that the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan could lead to a return to the dark days of the past.

In response to the ban on female education in Afghanistan, various countries have offered aid and assistance to support girls’ access to education. The UK government has pledged to provide £22 million in funding to help girls’ education in Afghanistan, while the Canadian government has announced a special immigration program to welcome Afghan women and girls who face gender-based violence and persecution.

However, it may take more than just international aid to address the crisis of female education in Afghanistan. There is a need for sustained advocacy and pressure on the Taliban to respect the fundamental rights of women and girls. Thomas-Greenfield has called on the international community to “stand in solidarity with Afghan women and girls” and channel their efforts towards supporting their education, empowerment, and protection.

In conclusion, the ban on female education in Afghanistan is a worrying development that threatens to undermine the rights and prospects of girls and women in the country. The US envoy to the UN has rightly highlighted the urgency and gravity of the situation and called for action to address this crisis. The international community must support Afghan women and girls in their quest for education and work towards a future where girls’ education is not just a right but a reality.