By: Natalie Cooke, News Writer
Women in Afghanistan have faced many challenges, including the inability to pursue higher education. Since the Taliban had its return to power in 2021, they have restricted women’s right to higher education. “In December 2022, university education for [Afghan] women was suspended until further notice, affecting over 100,000 female students attending government and private higher education institutions,” according to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.
The Canadian Women for Women in Afghanistan (CW4WA) have developed a toolkit to provide women in Afghanistan access to higher education. Sarah Keeler, the advocacy manager at CW4WA, explained the toolkit offers a variety of suggestions, including “everything from offering spaces for Afghan women to continue their studies at Canadian institutions to sharing our social media posts and factsheet.”
There are many tools that are recommended for Canadian universities, including: accepting transfer students, enabling virtual enrollment, waiving application fees, assisting with financial need, helping prepare future university students, and contributing resources and volunteers.
She noted, “The true test of this campaign will be when Canadian institutions and communities take up the calls to action [ . . . ] We have seen a great response from higher education and civil society organizations so far, and we know that the rights of Afghan women is an issue that Canadians care deeply about.”
Keeler shared that while the toolkit was created to be used by Canada’s higher education institutions, it is important that Canadians, including youth and students, can participate in advocacy for the right to education. “Afghan women have told us that when they see people as far away as Canada speaking out in defense of their human rights, it’s a powerful source of hope and strength for them to continue their brave work.”
Keeler encourages students to take further action towards the cause, such as participating in symbolic walkouts “in solidarity with their peers in Afghanistan.” As well as urging “your institution to adopt the recommendations of the toolkit, including issuing a solidarity statement.”
Braden McMillan, the director of media relations for SFU, shared a statement to The Peak on behalf of SFU. He said, “SFU is aware of the recently issued CW4WA toolkit and will be reviewing it.”
He also shared that since 1981, SFU has supported refugee students through their partnership with World University Services Canada (WUSC) Student Refugee Program, including students from Afghanistan. “SFU has supported scholars through our partnership with Scholars at Risk, which is an organization that protects scholars around the world suffering threats to their lives, liberty, and well-being.”
In 2021, SFU developed a fund in response to the fall of the Afghanistan government. The donations “cover salary, benefits, professional development, research costs, books and conferences for scholars.” The donations also support vulnerable students by covering “tuition, books, living costs, international travel, and settlement expenses.”
“We have seen a great response from higher education and civil society organizations so far,” said Keeler. “Building this global support for the idea that human rights are universal, they apply to all of us, is a powerful antidote to the divisions our world faces.”
To make a donation to the Threatened Scholars and Student Fund, visit their website, or email email@example.com.
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