Georgetown events support education and rights for Afghan women and girls

In April, Georgetown University hosted two events in support of Afghan women and girls. One gathering focused on best practices for increasing educational access through scholarships and logistical support, while another united Afghan women leaders in their fight for the rights of women and girls in Afghanistan. 

According to a global index published in 2023 by the Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security (GIWPS), Afghanistan is the lowest-ranked country when it comes to women’s inclusion, justice, and security. After the 2021 fall of Kabul, the Taliban banned women and girls from attending school past the sixth grade, according to the United Nations’ entity UN Women

Advancing educational access

On April 23, the University Network for Afghan Women, of which Georgetown is a founding member, hosted 20 universities; the U.S.-Afghan Women’s Council (USAWC); and other partner organizations to share best practices for scholarships, course offerings, and logistical support for Afghan students and their travel to the U.S. USAWC, based at Georgetown, was established in 2002 in partnership with the U.S. State Department and is co-chaired by Georgetown University President John J. DeGioia and the U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues, Geeta Rao Gupta.

“Over the past two years, U.S. universities have stepped up to help evacuate and support these new arrivals and to address the oppression and economic hardship of the 19 million women and girls remaining in Afghanistan,” says Phyllis Magrab, USAWC vice chair and a Georgetown professor of pediatrics. “Through the U.S. Afghan Women’s Council at Georgetown University, we’re able to connect these universities and amplify our impact, and look forward to growing this important network.”

In 2020, the USAWC served over 45,000 Afghan students, trained over 2,000 women in entrepreneurship programs, and ran more than 60 hospitals or clinics. The organization plans to expand online university education, train Afghan women entrepreneurs, and increase wraparound support services for refugees. 

Convening Afghan women leaders

GIWPS also recently hosted its third annual retreat for Afghan women, an event that is part of its Onward for Afghan Women initiative. Attendees included human rights defenders, activists, and journalists who were forced to flee Taliban-ruled Afghanistan in August 2021. In 2021, GIWPS evacuated over 1,000 at-risk women leaders and their families from Afghanistan. Every year since then, those leaders have met at Georgetown to discuss advocacy, leadership development, and professional coaching and celebrate their community.

“If you send money for a pen and pencil for one girl in your own village, that is resistance and hope,” said Dr. Sima Samar, former chairperson of Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission and the first Minister of Women’s Affairs of Afghanistan, during the retreat.

Read more about the U.S.-Afghan Women’s Council and Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security and their efforts to support educational access for Afghan women and girls.

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