During the Taliban rule, the topic of women and their issues was taboo, and the repressive general female experience left women rarely able to leave their houses and banned from education amongst other rights that they were stripped of. Since the regime, Afghanistan have worked to try and build women and their personal freedoms back up, and some amazing projects have come from it, including steps into fashion media. In the education sector, however, progress has led to a victory for the country's academic system, with Kabul University becoming the first higher education institute to offer students a degree related to women's rights and gender issues.
The Masters degree is a two-year course focused on media, feminist theory, social justice and many other women-related topics. The course itself was funded by South Korea, and run by the UNDP (United Nations Development Programme). This year, 22 graduates — amongst them, seven men — collected their degrees in a graduation ceremony, marking the first class of graduates for the women's studies course.
One of the graduates, Mujtaba Arefi, told AFP, “this is the beginning of a change. With these programmed we can understand the women's place and status in our society. There is the possibility that we will reach a level of gender equality like the West.”
In 2015, the year that the course started, over 5000 cases of violence against women were reported in Afghanistan, indicating a 49% increase since 2013, according to the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC).
Sajia Sediqqi, another graduate, also spoke to AFP, and said how she had hope that her fellow graduates would use their qualification for good, helping women and Afghan society's treatment of them.
“In a short period of time we cannot bring about any dramatic change, but with our higher education we can help change our society and serve our people, particularly our women,” Sediqqi said.
Here's hoping that women and gender-centric courses will become more widely available in order to help the conditions that women live in in predominantly patriarchal countries such as Afghanistan.