Afghanistan online universityWhen the Taliban regained power in 2021, it repressed the rights of women in Afghanistan. In December 2022, it banned Afghan women from receiving a university education. It has been very daunting for women who were already working on post-secondary degrees to suddenly be forced to stop their schooling. That’s why Afghanistan Online University (AOU) and other virtual offerings like it attract droves of Afghan women.

In response to the decree that they could not attend university, many Afghan women have started to demonstrate for their rights.  They attend school secretly in Afghanistan and take classes online. Based in Germany, AOU’s mission is to provide higher education for Afghans in order to make Afghanistan a more peaceful and successful country.

Afghanistan Online University Basics

Afghan academics who voluntarily left Afghanistan to live in Europe founded AOU. The online school strives to give higher education to Afghans both inside and outside the country, focusing on those living in refugee camps or other unstable settings. It offers ten fields of study: information and computer science, education, psychology, social work, sociology, political science, journalism/communication science, economics, business studies and language and literature. In addition, the university explores the details of the culture and society in Afghanistan.

Similar to most open universities, the AOU has study programs at both bachelor and master levels as well as doctoral training. It employs 60 professors and 60 junior academic staff. In addition, it uses an administrative staff to cover teaching assignments.

Potential Expansion

AOU needs funding to accommodate more students and support future projects, but as of now, it is offering free classes. The Taliban has rejected the AOU’s accreditation request so the university is pursuing it from the European Union.

The university can currently accommodate about 5,000 students, but with limited additional support, it could enroll even more. A physical campus university facility where the students could access a library and a computer system would cost an estimated 30 million euros and require additional funds for scholarship and research development.


Although the university is facing challenges including language barriers and the risk of students being caught, the students are determined to continue their education. They remain anonymous and use fake names in order to not be discovered and remain safe. Widespread internet cuts and poor Afghan internet connection negatively impact the number of people served.  To combat that, AOU is recording lectures to reduce the problems caused by these interruptions.  Moreover, students unable to attend classes or complete homework due to internet issues are given deadline extensions.

Looking Ahead

Of course, AOU is not a permanent solution. It is crucial that the rights of Afghan women vastly improve, which includes opening universities to them once again. However, Afghanistan Online University is putting forth commendable effort and giving worthwhile educational opportunities to many individuals.

– Megan Roush
Photo: Flickr

Access to Health Services for Afghan WomenAfghanistan is one of the most dangerous countries in the world to be a woman. For decades, women in Afghanistan have endured overwhelming marginalization, discrimination and highly restricted access to education, healthcare and employment. Since the 1996 rise of the Taliban, a Sunni Islamic fundamentalist group, women and girls’ human rights have been severely violated.

Before the Taliban’s rise to power, women’s rights were gradually improving, despite high maternal and child mortality rates and a very low literacy rate for women. Before the 1996 takeover, Afghan women helped draft the 1964 Constitution, there were at least three women legislators in Parliament by the 1970s and a 1978 decree required education for girls. But as the Taliban insurgents gained control, those rights deteriorated and the nationalist group centered its campaign on terrorizing women.

During the Taliban’s rule, women and girls were forced into marriage and slavery, they had to be accompanied by a male relative in order to leave the house, they were banned from driving and only about three percent of girls received some sort of primary education. Additionally, the Taliban implemented heavy restrictions on access to health services for Afghan women, including a ban on receiving care from male health workers, which left many pregnant women without the aid of skilled doctors, nurses or midwives.

After five years of brutally sexist and misogynistic authority, the Taliban government was defeated in 2001 by U.S. and Northern Alliance forces. However, internal conflict and fighting between the Afghan government and Taliban forces is still a crisis as of today; thousands of civilian fatalities were reported in 2017. Once the Taliban fell from power in 2001, hope sparked for improved economic and social conditions, leading to a positive reemergence of women’s rights.

But, despite government attempts to devise and institute plans to empower Afghan women, inclusion for the women of Afghanistan still remains a challenge. According to a 2017 report, women and girls have continued to endure gender-based violence by state and non-state actors, there has been an increase in public punishments of women by armed groups and restricted access to girls’ education by armed groups has persisted.

However, women are striving to regain their role in society and present living conditions are gradually progressing. For example, as of recently, access to health services for Afghan women has increased. These improved services include a newly established health center and an increase in hiring female health workers in Daman district.

Daman district, located in central Kandahar Province, is known for having a lack of health facilities and female health professionals, which has led to increased maternal and infant mortality rates. Afghanistan as a whole has some of the highest infant and maternal mortality rates in the world, and pregnancy-related causes have taken the lives of thousands of Afghan women each year, although most of the causes are easily preventable.

However, since the establishment of the Azam Qala Basic Health Center in 2015, those rates have slightly decreased. Kandahar Province’s new health center is seeing more female patients and healthy deliveries, and as of March 29, 2018, there now are at least 20 childbirths at the center each month. Overall, the Azam Qala Health Center sees more than 70 patients a day and serves more than 13,000 people in the Daman district.

With great support from the System Enhancement for Health Action in Transition Program (SEHAT), the Azam Qala Basic Health Center was financed and provided with skillful female health professionals, and now access to health services for Afghan women is much improved. SEHAT’s objective is to expand the scope, quality and coverage of health services to Afghanistan, particularly for the most vulnerable. With continued efforts, women and girls’ rights in Afghanistan will continue to improve.

– Natalie Shaw

Photo: Wikimedia Commons