The Pak Afghan Jirga Series is an effort to bring about expert opinion, discussion, and policy oriented outcomes on matters of concern in the Pak Afghan Region. Jirga, in the cultural contours of the region, implies a meeting and gathering of the elderly to discuss pressing matters and to take decisions. Extending upon this cultural practice, Pak Afghan Youth Forum (PAYF) regularly organizes Jirga-styled discussions and webinars on a range of topics. On 12th April 2022, PAYF organized another session of the Jirga series, this time to discuss the issue of girls’ education in Afghanistan.
Just when schools opened up for children in Afghanistan in March, 2022 marking the start of a new annual school year, it came as a disappointment to many that girls were banned from attending schools. This decision by the Interim Government of Afghanistan mustered controversy and PAYF decided to bring the actual issue to light by inviting experts from both Pakistan and Afghanistan to take up a discussion and suggest some workable solutions to the issue of girls’ education in Afghanistan. Since the ban, we had been hearing a lot of concerns and anticipations regarding the lives of women under the new government in Afghanistan and it was about time to hear from those who had been directly in touch with the situation.
Speakers from both Pakistan and Afghanistan were invited to share their views and expert opinion on the issue. The aim of organizing this Jirga was to provide a platform to the Pak Afghan experts, dignitaries and practitioners where they can share insights and discuss a possible course of action paving way towards girls’ education in Afghanistan. The spokesperson of the Ministry of Education of Afghanistan, Mr. Aziz Ahmad Rayan, was also one of the panelists and he gave an important statement during the discussion, that girls would be allowed to go to schools shortly and the ban would be lifted. He drew a clearer picture of the challenges that Afghanistan is facing regarding the restoration of girls’ education.
Panelists from Pakistan included Ms. Fajer Rabia Pasha (Executive Director, PAGE), Dr. Salma Malik (Assistant Professor, QAU), and Ambassador (retired) Najum us Saqib. On the other end, the Afghan panelists were Mr. Wahed Faqiri (writer, social activist, and journalist), Ms. Hasiba Effat (journalist), Dr. Abdul Latif Nazari (Deputy Finance Minister, Afghanistan), and the spokesperson of the Ministry of Education, Mr. Aziz Ahmad Rayan. The discussion brought about a solution-oriented conversation and discourse on the issue concerning girls’ education; insights were sought to devise a comprehensive policy narrative and perspective for the people of Afghanistan. All the panelists agreed that education is essential for Afghanistan and girls’ education must be prioritized.
Panelists from Pakistan expressed desire and eagerness to contribute and facilitate in whatever capacity they can to help Afghanistan build its own sustainable education and curriculum policy. It was emphasized that leaving women and girls out of the rebuilding phase can prove to be catastrophic for the coming future and generations. The Afghan panelists established that a sentiment of disappointment persists among the Afghans over the issue, especially among the young girls of school-going age whose aspirations have been hit hard. It was also stressed from both sides that imparting education to Afghan girls must not be above the cultural norms and values of the Afghan society and the Interim Government can ensure that culturally-grounded curricula are taught in schools.