Afghanistan’s strategic location along the Silk Road in South Asia connected it historically to the cultures of the Middle East and other parts of Asia, but it has also witnessed military campaigns ranging from Alexander the Great to the Soviet invasion of 1979 and the U.S.-led overthrow of the Taliban in 2001. There have been more than 90,000 direct war-related deaths since 2001, and stability remains a challenge as the Taliban continues to threaten the current government.
Afghanistan’s Gender Inequality Index is the second lowest in the world, 147 out of 148 countries, and access to education remains one of the greatest challenges. Prior to 2002, women and girls were almost completely excluded from education. Since the overthrow of the Taliban, significant gains have been made in providing girls with access to education, but today the Taliban has regained control of 40% of the provinces. Public support for women to have equal access to education dropped from 59% in 2006 to only 38% in 2015.
Just keeping girls in school through secondary school remains an enormous challenge. The barriers include child marriage, poverty and child labor, insecurity and violence, discriminatory attitudes, and sexual harassment. By the age of 12-15, 66% of girls are out of school, compared with 40% of boys, according to a UNICEF report in 2016. In some provinces, the number of students who are girls is as low as 15%. The literacy rate for women aged 15-24 is only about 20%, and while access to a higher education has increased, enrollment of women in universities remains at 22%.
Consistent with our vision for empowering students at the furthest margins of our global society, Love Forward is exploring opportunities to partner with orphanages and similar NGOs in Afghanistan. Our vision is to provide a path for women to pursue a higher education who have been separated from their family due to death, abandonment, or violence, further empowering those who have already had the opportunity to attend primary and secondary school with the help of other agencies. We plan to launch our program in Afghanistan in 2019.