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Breaking News: Women Allowed Limited Medical School Enrollment

In the ever-evolving landscape of women’s education in Afghanistan, recent developments have stirred a mix of hope and reflection within our mission at Sahar Education. The recent announcement of the Taliban permitting female enrollment in state-run medical institutes marks a significant milestone in the journey toward gender equality in education. As advocates, we find ourselves at a critical juncture, where progress intersects with ongoing challenges.

The Taliban have reportedly allowed female high school graduates in Afghanistan to enroll in state-run medical institutes for the new academic year that begins in March.

VOA News: Taliban Allow Female Enrollment in State-Run Medical Institutes

However, only 9 provinces have been included in the order including Kapisa, Parwan, Panjshir, Maidan Wardak, Ghazni, Paktika, Logar, Khost, and Paktia.

It is not clear whether the initiative will cover the remaining 22 provinces.

According to the news agency, the Taliban Ministry of Public Health has sent a letter to the Directorates of Public Health in the mentioned provinces, instructing them to start the process of recruiting 12th-grade female graduates to health institutes.

Kabul Now: Taliban Open Medical Institutes to Women Amidst Continued Restrictions

Reports from Kabul Now and VOA News shed light on this pivotal moment. The decision to open doors for women in medical studies comes as a result of persistent pressure from both domestic and international rights groups.

The UN has consistently warned about Afghanistan’s shortage of qualified health workers, especially females.

Kate Pond, a spokesperson for UNICEF, said, “there is a shortage of qualified health workers in Afghanistan overall, and women in particular,” noting that some people travel long distances for healthcare services.

Kabul Now: Taliban Open Medical Institutes to Women Amidst Continued Restrictions

This development is not merely a policy shift but a testament to the resilience and determination of Afghan women to pursue education despite adversity.

However, as we celebrate this step forward, we must confront the stark realities that persist. An article from The Associated Press serves as a poignant reminder of the obstacles still faced by Afghan girls. The closure of high schools for girls under Taliban rule highlights the urgency of our work in providing alternative avenues for education and empowerment. Due to the closure, there have been no new graduates since 2021 and Afghanistan runs the risk of having no students qualified to enter these programs in future years if high school is not reinstated.

A woman’s education can also determine if her children have basic immunization and if her daughters are married by the age of 18. The lack of women’s education is among the major drivers of deprivation, says the U.N.

Aid groups say girls are at increased risk of child labor and child marriage because they’re not at school, amid the growing hardships faced by families.

AP NEWS: 2 years ago, the Taliban banned girls from school. It’s a worsening crisis for all Afghans

At Sahar Education, we are committed to providing underground classes in essential subjects such as computer skills, coding, and English. These initiatives serve as beacons of hope, offering Afghan women the tools to carve out brighter futures for themselves and their communities.

The recent developments regarding women’s education in Afghanistan underscore the importance of our mission. They remind us that while progress is being made, much work still needs to be done. Our resolve to empower Afghan women through education has never been stronger.

As we navigate the complexities of this moment, let us draw inspiration from the resilience of Afghan women. Together, we can continue to break down barriers and build a future where every woman has the opportunity to thrive.

Want to support the continued resilience of Afghan women and girls? Join Sahar Education for a free Zoom Round Table event on March 7th.

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The Taliban’s War on Minds: How the Education Ban Harms Afghan Children’s Mental Health

This week, as we observe Children’s Mental Health Week, it’s crucial to shed light on an ongoing crisis that continues to undermine the mental well-being of Afghan children, particularly girls. The Taliban’s stringent policies, including the prohibition of education for girls beyond the sixth grade, are not just a denial of fundamental rights but also a significant source of psychological distress and mental health issues among Afghan children.

In light of the current educational and societal climate in Afghanistan, the statistics offer a stark insight into the challenges faced by Afghan girls and women following the Taliban’s educational restrictions. Since the Taliban’s edict in September 2021, the education of girls over the age of 12 has been indefinitely halted, resulting in 1.1 million girls and young women being deprived of access to formal education. This ban has escalated to the point where currently, an estimated 80% of school-aged Afghan girls and young women, amounting to 2.5 million individuals, are out of school. Alarmingly, nearly 30% of Afghan girls have never had the opportunity to enter primary education. The situation worsened with the suspension of university education for women in December 2022, affecting over 100,000 female students across both government and private higher education institutions. Source: Unesco

The repercussions of these bans are not confined to education alone but extend into the broader societal and economic realms. The prohibition on women’s education is exacerbating a crisis for all Afghans, leading to job losses among tens of thousands of teachers and support staff, and impacting private institutions and businesses financially dependent on girls’ education. Afghanistan’s economy, already in a fragile state, is further strained as women are excluded from the job market, potentially costing the country billions of dollars in GDP. Moreover, the prioritization of Islamic knowledge over basic literacy and numeracy is paving the way for a generation devoid of contemporary or secular education, which is crucial for economic advancement. Source: CTV News

Before these suspensions, Afghanistan had seen a significant increase in the enrolment of girls and women in education. Between 2001 and 2018, the number of girls in primary school surged from almost zero to 2.5 million, and by August 2021, girls constituted 40% of primary education students. The presence of women in Afghan higher education had increased almost twentyfold, from 5,000 in 2001 to over 100,000 in 2021, with literacy rates for women doubling during this period. Source: Unesco

The return of the Taliban to power in Afghanistan has seen the reinstatement of severe restrictions on women’s and girls’ rights, including access to education. According to a report by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, the Taliban has effectively barred girls from attending school beyond the sixth grade. This policy not only curtails their right to education but also isolates them from their peers and the broader social environment, which is essential for their cognitive and emotional development.

The impact of these restrictions extends beyond the realm of education. The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) has emphasized that quality education must be equally accessible to all, as it is a cornerstone of societal advancement and individual well-being. The denial of education to Afghan girls not only breaches their human rights but also contributes to a broader climate of gender discrimination and social injustice. Such an environment fosters feelings of worthlessness, anxiety, and depression among girls, who are forced to accept a future devoid of the opportunities that education provides.

These statistics highlight the dire consequences of the Taliban’s educational restrictions on Afghan women and girls, underscoring the urgency of international support and intervention to restore their right to education and contribute to Afghanistan’s development.


Moreover, the psychological impact on children witnessing the suppression of their mothers, sisters, and friends cannot be understated. The collective trauma experienced by a generation growing up under such oppression is likely to have long-lasting effects on their mental health. The sense of powerlessness and the internalization of gender-based discrimination can contribute to a range of mental health issues, including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, and depression.

During Children’s Mental Health Week, it’s essential to recognize the unique challenges faced by Afghan children, especially girls, and advocate for their rights to education and mental health support. Education is not just about acquiring knowledge; it’s about building confidence, fostering resilience, and nurturing the social skills necessary for a healthy mental state. Denying Afghan girls access to education not only hampers their personal development but also perpetuates a cycle of mental health issues that could hinder the progress of an entire society.

Sahar Education, in its commitment to the empowerment of Afghan girls and women, has developed a comprehensive suite of programs that go beyond traditional education. Understanding the multifaceted challenges faced by women and girls in Afghanistan, Sahar’s programs are designed to provide them with the tools and knowledge necessary for personal empowerment, mental well-being, and societal change. Our curricula encompass a wide range of topics critical to women’s empowerment, including mental health awareness, coping skills, leadership development, conflict resolution, child marriage prevention, and women’s health and reproduction. These subjects, often considered taboo and not covered in the Afghan school system, are vital for the holistic development of the girls and women we serve.

The workshops and courses offered by Sahar Education serve as a safe space for participants to discuss and learn about sensitive topics openly. Feedback from the girls involved in our programs consistently highlights the immense value they find in these workshops. By addressing issues directly affecting them and their communities, Sahar helps to foster a supportive environment where girls can build confidence, resilience, and a sense of agency. The discussions on difficult subjects not only equip them with critical life skills but also strengthen the communities within the Sahar courses. This approach ensures that the benefits of our programs extend beyond the individual participants, contributing to the broader goal of societal transformation and gender equality in Afghanistan.

This Children’s Mental Health Week, let us renew our commitment to fighting for the rights and well-being of children worldwide, starting with the urgent need to support Afghan girls’ right to education. Through education and empowerment, we can combat the mental health crisis and pave the way for a brighter, more equitable future for all.

Take a stand and sponsor a girl today!

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Human Trafficking Awareness Month

Hunger is skyrocketing in Afghanistan and children are suffering. Many families make hard decisions to sell their daughters into forced marriage as early as 6 years old. This practice has skyrocketed since schools were closed with no prospect of daughters bringing in money and helping support their families any other way. (Source: Washington Post In the new Afghanistan, it’s sell your daughter or starve)

Across Afghanistan, child marriages have skyrocketed, and not only because of economic collapse. Families once hoped that their daughters, when educated, might find good work and contribute to the family income. Today, under the Taliban’s ever-increasing restrictions, school is prohibited for girls after the sixth grade, and work options for women are few. Sequestered at home, a girl becomes just another mouth to feed. But as a bride, she’s a valuable commodity. A $2,000 bride price is enough to feed a family for a year. For the girls, of course, this is a nightmare. 

Stephanie Sinclair, Founder – Too Young to Wed

A child bride is sold for around $2,000. They are subjected to abuses most of us dare not imagine. And it is preventable.

Girls and women who participate in underground schools come away with the skills and determination to start home businesses, freelance, and teach their own schools, bringing income without being sold. These programs are a gateway to freedom for so many.

In December, CNN reported that suicides and depression are rising in Afghanistan among girls and women. Women’s Empowerment courses in Sahar programs tackle the stigma and hardship of depression and give girls support and hope where many are without.

Experts say reliable statistics on suicide and suicide attempts aren’t compiled in Afghanistan, but rights groups and doctors say they’ve seen an increase under Taliban rule.

Dr. Shikib Ahmadi has been working six days a week and longer hours than ever, seeing patients at a mental health clinic in Afghanistan’s western Herat province. He’s using a pseudonym because he fears the Taliban will punish him for speaking to foreign media.

Ahmadi said the number of female patients at his clinic has surged 40% to 50% since the Taliban’s takeover two years ago. Around 10% of those patients kill themselves, he said.

Oppressed by the Taliban, she swallowed acid. Now her siblings are trying to save her life, CNN

Early marriage prevention has long been a topic of Sahar programs and we continue to tackle this sensitive topic in our underground courses, including the Men as Partners in Change program. Educating men and women on the dangers of early marriage is an important step in prevention.

In many countries, marriage before the age of 18 is a reality for girls due to the interaction of several factors that place a girl at risk, including poverty, social norms, customary or religious laws that condone the practice, an inadequate legislative framework and the state of a country’s civil registration system. Child marriage often compromises a girl’s development by resulting in early pregnancy and social isolation, interrupting her schooling, and limiting her opportunities for career and vocational advancement. It also often involves a substantial age difference between the girl and her partner, thus further disempowering her and putting her at greater risk of partner violence, sexually transmitted diseases and lack of agency.

The Afghanistan MICS 2022-23

Forced and child marriage is human trafficking and it’s becoming more common in Afghanistan due, in part, to strict bans on secondary education and restrictions on employment for women and girls. Underground schools give an avenue to these families, a route to take that doesn’t involve selling their daughters to the highest bidder.

This January, take a stand against human trafficking.

Sponsor a girl in underground schools or sponsor a woman who wants to support her family, we can’t change lives without you.

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2023 Impact Report

“In the wake of unprecedented challenges and transformative shifts in Afghanistan’s socio-political landscape, Sahar Education emerges as a beacon of hope and resilience. As we navigate the complexities of a post-2021 era marked by the Taliban’s takeover, Sahar Education steadfastly continues its mission to empower women and girls through education.

This Impact Report for 2023 unveils the organization’s unwavering commitment to providing underground education, demonstrating the indomitable spirit that has defined Sahar’s journey since its inception in 2009.

Before the Taliban’s resurgence, Sahar Education was at the forefront of positive change in Afghanistan. From constructing schools for girls to operating teacher training centers and offering women’s empowerment classes, the organization played a pivotal role in shaping a brighter future for Afghan women and girls. The abrupt shift in the country’s dynamics necessitated a strategic pivot, leading Sahar to adapt its approach while staying true to its core values.”

Read more in the full report!

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6th Grade Graduation Brings Turmoil to Afghan Girls

As another year comes to a close under Taliban rule in Afghanistan girls are losing hope for the future they were promised. Radio Free Europe reported on the dire situation on December 8th, 2023:

‘Hundreds of thousands of sixth-grade girls in Afghanistan attended the last day of the school year, many with tears in their eyes as they face an uncertain future because of Taliban policies that forbid them from further schooling and restrict their basic human rights.’

Imagine graduating 6th grade only to face the brutal reality of forced marriage, domestic servitude, or extreme poverty. This is the reality for those girls. Without continued education they will not be eligible for the few jobs open to women and their families will face hard decisions.

Under the current regime, the people are facing appalling conditions with little help from the defacto government or the international community leading to record dissatisfaction by the Afghan public. 

‘The Taliban’s policies are deeply unpopular among most Afghans. Even though dissent is often met with a harsh response by authorities, some people are still willing to criticize the government because the policies are seen as destructive.

In the Muslim nation of some 40 million people, activists and rights advocates accuse the Taliban of implementing “gender apartheid” by denying women education, work, freedom of movement, and deciding how they can appear in public.’

Furthermore, although girls’ education and the freedoms of women have been severely stilted there have also been damaging changes made to the education system affecting boys. 

A report titled Schools Are Failing Boys Too, from Human Rights Watch, is quoted in the article as saying 

‘curriculum changes, the firing of female teachers, corporal punishment, and other practices risk their education over the longer term as well.

Sahar Fetrat, a women’s rights researcher at HRW and the author of the report says the Taliban has caused “irreversible damage” to the education of both Afghan boys and girls.

“By harming the whole school system in the country, they risk creating a lost generation deprived of a quality education,” she said.’

With the fate of 40 million people hanging in the balance, we can only hope the international community will step up to pressure the Taliban into reversing these abhorrent policies. In the meantime, secret schools are among the few avenues open to girls who have aged out of the education system. 

Sahar offers underground programs to girls and women who are excluded from school in Afghanistan. In our programs, girls learn English, computer skills, coding, women’s health and mental health topics, tailoring, literacy, and women’s empowerment skills. 

We also offer a program for boys and young men that focuses on how men can support women in their fight for equality, how families are more functional with a partnership between the parents, how domestic violence and early marriage are wrong, and more important topics that we need the youth of Afghanistan to learn if we expect anyone ever to stand up and stop this oppressive regime. 

A graduate of the second 2023 Stealth Sisters program shares her thoughts

In October, 20 more girls graduated from the second round of our Stealth Sisters program. Even more girls are learning through our Underground TechSheroes program, also in its second round. And, the first rounds of our adapted Men as Partners in Change and Threads of Hope programs are underway as the year comes to a close.

Want to learn more about our programs? Watch our most recent round table on YouTube!

Want to support our programs? Bid on Auction items until December 15th or donate with 50% matching today through Global Giving!

You can change the life of a girl and her community, today!

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Help reach $20,000

Sahar Education is reaching for the stars with your help this #GivingTuesday

From now until 9 pm PST, YOU can help us maximize our share of $1.2 MILLION USD in bonus funds from GlobalGiving for #GivingTuesday! Additionally, Sahar Education will receive double matching from the Safer World Fund! 

This is your chance to support Afghan girls in their struggle against the tyranny of the Taliban—the more you give, the more we get!

Today only, your donation of $100 = $200 for Afghan girls!

Donate now!

Progress as of 9 am towards our $20,000 goal!

Your contribution is changing lives!

Donate Now for DOUBLE MATCHING!

You can change the life of a girl and her community.

Donate Today