MSVU and AMI consider the threat to education for women and girls in Afghanistan

Each year, United Nations Human Rights Day takes place on December 10 – marking the anniversary of the day in 1948 when the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). This milestone document is now available in more than 500 languages – making it among the most translated documents in the world. The UDHR proclaims the inalienable rights that every human being is entitled to – regardless of race, colour, religion, sex, language, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.

The theme of this year’s United Nations Human Rights Day is ‘Equality,’ focusing on reducing inequalities and advancing human rights and recognizing Article 1 of the UDHR: ‘All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.’

Equality is a topic that’s close to the hearts of all of us at Mount Saint Vincent University, given the clear connection to our purpose to foster the education of women and other engaged thinkers, while committing to social justice and to an equitable, diverse, inclusive and accessible community. And this purpose is enacted on a daily basis through the work of the university’s Alexa McDonough Institute for Women, Gender, and Social Justice (AMI).

“Our Alexa McDonogh Institute for Women, Gender and Social Justice aims to achieve equity and improve lives through feminist initiatives that extend knowledge and understanding of issues affecting women and girls in our university community and beyond,” said MSVU’s Interim President and Vice Chancellor Ramona Lumpkin. “Every day across the globe, more than 1.1 billion girls are breaking barriers and working to resolve issues like climate change, child marriage, violence, and an equitable access to health care and education. Here at MSVU, we strongly believe education has the power to advance women, and we stand firm in our commitment to equity, diversity, inclusion, accessibility and social justice.”

Recently, as part of the AMI’s work to share information about women and girls experiencing inequality around the world, AMI chair Leanne Birmingham-Beddow had the opportunity to interview Ms. Gulmakai Sarvar, President of the Afghan Society of Halifax. Their discussion casts a light on the human rights of women and girls in Afghanistan and the impact of the Taliban’s recent return to power. Ms Sarvar shares her personal experience leaving Afghanistan in the early 90s, seeking refuge in neighbouring countries until she came to Canada in 2005. She also speaks about her current struggle to help Afghan refugees escape to Canada and offers thoughts on how our local community can provide support.

“Through this important conversation, we’re turning our attention to the current issue of exclusion from education facing girls and women in Afghanistan,” said Lumpkin. “When the Taliban were removed from power in 2001, enormous progress was made in improving Afghanistan’s education enrollments and literacy rates, especially for women and girls. A recent report by the United Nations education branch, UNESCO, said the number of girls in primary school increased from almost zero to 2.5 million over 17 years. But this fall, the Taliban once again seized control of Afghanistan, and threatens to stifle this progress. According to the United Nations and reports from around the world, women are not going to work, and girls are not going to school.”

As we mark the 2021 United Nations Human Rights Day, we invite you to watch the video AMI Spotlight: Threat to Education of Women & Girls in Afghanistan in its entirety.