Has life improved at all for women in Afghanistan

01:00 Thu 07th Feb 2002 |

asks ursula:
For the five years that the Taliban ruled Afghanistan, women were not allowed to work or study. Before then, 60% of the 10,000 students at Kabal University were female. Since 1996, girls have had to be educated secretly by teachers who would have been severely punished if they'd been found out.

Recently, young women were allowed to reclaim their place in the education system - by taking entrance exams at Kabul university.

Q. How many sat the exam
About 500 females and 3,500 males, but there were many more who wanted to take it. So many, in fact, that armed police had to brought in to control the queues.

Q. Aren't the female students at a disadvantage because they essentially lost five years of education
Yes, and they are being given extra help. For example, any women who passes the entrance exam is automatically credited with 15% of her marks. And she will be given extra classes. But it isn't just women who have suffered: the education system in Afghanistan has been in a bad way for everyone.

Q. Why
Banning women from studying was just one of the ways the Taliban destroyed the education system. It didn't supply money to pay staff salaries or to buy books or equipment. And many buildings were destroyed or taken over for other purposes during the inter-mujahideen fighting.

Q. What else has been happening for women
There's a minister for women's affairs - Sima Samar. And a new magazine for women - The Women's Mirror: four pages of news and events from a woman's point of view. It's hard to imagine what a triumph this magazine is after years in which women were virtually invisible and never heard.

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By Sheena Miller

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