This photograph, taken in Chishti Sharif, Afghanistan, depicts a school where boys study in the morning, and girls attend informally later in the day, behind curtains to hide them from view.
Since September 2021, over a million Afghan girls and young women have been blocked from formal education as the return to school for this group has been indefinitely postponed. Currently, 2.5 million school-aged Afghan girls and young women are not allowed to attend school. In December 2022, the government and private higher education institutions suspended university education for women until further notice, affecting over 100,000 female students.
The Taliban justifies prohibiting women’s education with restrictive interpretations of Islamic law. Girls caught studying or attending classes may face severe punishment, including physical violence, imprisonment, or execution. Further entrenching gender inequality in Afghanistan and preventing women from participating in public life by limiting girls’ education results in negative health and economic consequences for the country.