in brief: afghan schoolgirls poisoned for claiming an education
It is feared that a girls’ school in Takhar province in northern Afghanistan has been hit by poison gas, causing up to 74 girls to be hospitalised over the weekend, with some in a critical condition. Events like these, causing mass illness and forcing girls to stop attending school, are not uncommon even in post-Taliban controlled Afghanistan, where extremely conservative facets of society are violently opposed to the education of women and girls.
Since the ousting of the Taliban in 2001, Afghan women have achieved basic rights to education, the vote and employment, however attacks on female students, their families, teachers and schools continue. In her 2012 TED talk Shabana Basij-Rasikh describes how during Taliban control, families wishing to send their daughters to school risked their lives, having to do so in secret. This results in fewer than 6% of young adult women attaining more than a primary school education. In contrast, there are now around three million girls enrolled in schools in Afghanistan.
The risks these girls and their families undergo to achieve what we, in privileged Western societies, take for granted are phenomenal; their daily struggles truly exemplifying what Adrienne Rich meant when she said that women need to claim an education.
By Ruby Grant