Women on the Rise in Afghanistan ~ Lesson Overview

October 25, 2011

(Click here for a printer-friendly version of this lesson.)

GRADES: 9-12


TIME ALLOTMENT: Two to three 45-minute class periods



Using segments from the PBS series Women, War & Peace, students learn about the life of women in Afghanistan, including progress they have made and the obstacles/dangers they face.  The lesson highlights Afghan women’s efforts to play an active role in Afghanistan’s peace process and to empower other women in their country. In the Introductory Activity, students learn about current dangers faced by women in Afghanistan and actions two Afghan women are taking to empower other women in their country. In Learning Activity 1, students learn about the rights of women during and after Taliban rule and the efforts of Afghan women to play an active role in their country’s peace process, as well as efforts by the US to support their efforts. In Learning Activity 2, students explore background information about Afghanistan, the Taliban and Islam using an online discussion guide. In the Culminating Activity, students explore efforts women have played in advocating for human rights and participating in peace building efforts around the world. The lesson ends with students writing a reflection paper about topics presented in the lesson.



Students will be able to:

  • Explain what the Taliban is and how the lives of women were restricted under its rule.
  • Describe progress women have made since Taliban rule.
  • Describe dangers women currently face in Afghanistan.
  • Discuss steps individual Afghan women are taking to empower other women in their country.
  • Describe why Afghan women felt it was critical to be involved in Afghanistan’s peace process and steps they took to make sure they would be part of the process.
  • Explain ways in which the United States has supported the efforts of the women of Afghanistan.
  • Describe the role women have played in advocating for human rights and/or peace in at least two countries.



New York State Standards:

Standard SS2: World History

Students will use a variety of intellectual skills to demonstrate their understanding of major ideas, eras, themes, developments, and turning points in world history and examine the broad sweep of history from a variety of perspectives.

  • Key Idea SS2.3: Study of the major social, political, cultural, and religious developments in world history involves learning about the important roles and contributions of individuals and groups.


  • Performance Indicator SS2.C.3A: Students analyze the roles and contributions of individuals and groups to social, political, economic, cultural, and religious practices and activities.
  • Key Idea SS2.alt.1: Students will study world history, cultures and civilizations and the important contribution of individuals and groups.
  • Performance Indicator SS2.alt.1D: Students explore the lifestyles, beliefs, traditions, rules and laws, and social/cultural needs and wants of people during different periods in history and in different parts of the world.
  • Performance Indicator SS2.alt.1F: Students utilize media to become aware of current events.

Standard SS5: Civics, Citizenship, and Government

Students will use a variety of intellectual skills to demonstrate their understanding of the necessity for establishing governments; the governmental system of the United States and other nations; the United States Constitution; the basic civic values of American constitutional democracy; and the roles, rights, and responsibilities of citizenship, including avenues of participation.

  • Key Idea SS5.1: The study of civics, citizenship, and government involves learning about political systems; the purposes of government and civic life; and the differing assumptions held by people across time and place regarding power, authority, governance, and law.


  • Performance Indicator SS5.C.1A: Students analyze how the values of a nation and international organizations affect the guarantee of human rights and make provisions for human needs.
  • Key Idea SS5.4: The study of civics and citizenship requires the ability to probe ideas and assumptions, ask and answer analytical questions, take a skeptical attitude toward questionable arguments, evaluate evidence, formulate rational conclusions, and develop and refine participatory skills.
  • Performance Indicator SS5.C.4D: Students consider the need to respect the rights of others, to respect others’ points of view.


National Standards:

Historical Thinking Standards for Grades 5-12

  • Standard 3: Historical Analysis and Interpretation: The student engages in historical analysis and interpretation. Therefore, the student is able to:
    • Compare and contrast differing sets of ideas, values, personalities, behaviors, and institutions by identifying likenesses and differences.
    • Consider multiple perspectives of various peoples in the past by demonstrating their differing motives, beliefs, interests, hopes, and fears.
    • Analyze cause-and-effect relationships bearing in mind multiple causation including (a) the importance of the individual in history; (b) the influence of ideas, human interests, and beliefs; and (c) the role of chance, the accidental and the irrational.
    • Draw comparisons across eras and regions in order to define enduring issues as well as large-scale or long-term developments that transcend regional and temporal boundaries.
    • Hypothesize the influence of the past, including both the limitations and opportunities made possible by past decisions.
    • Standard 5: Historical Issues-Analysis and Decision-Making: The student engages in historical issues-analysis and decision-making. Therefore, the student is able to:
      • Identify issues and problems in the past and analyze the interests, values, perspectives, and points of view of those involved in the situation.
      • Marshal evidence of antecedent circumstances and current factors contributing to contemporary problems and alternative courses of action.
      • Evaluate alternative courses of action, keeping in mind the information available at the time, in terms of ethical considerations, the interests of those affected by the decision, and the long- and short-term consequences of each.
      • Formulate a position or course of action on an issue by identifying the nature of the problem, analyzing the underlying factors contributing to the problem, and choosing a plausible solution from a choice of carefully evaluated options.
      • Evaluate the implementation of a decision by analyzing the interests it served; estimating the position, power, and priority of each player involved; assessing the ethical dimensions of the decision; and evaluating its costs and benefits from a variety of perspectives.

National Standards in World History for Grades 5-12

  • World History/ Era 9 Standard 2C: The student understands how liberal democracy, market economies, and human rights movements have reshaped political and social life. Therefore, the student is able to:
    • Assess the progress of human and civil rights around the world since the 1948 U.N. Declaration of Human Rights.
    • Analyze how feminist movements and social conditions have affected the lives of women in different parts of the world and compare women’s progress toward social equality, economic opportunity, and political rights in various countries.
  • World History/Era 9/ Standard 2D: The student understands major sources of tension and conflict in the contemporary world and efforts that have been made to address them. Therefore, the student is able to:
    • Analyze why terrorist movements have proliferated and the extent of their impact on politics and society in various countries.

  • World History/ Era 9/ Standard 3A: The student understands major global trends since World War II. Therefore the student is able to:
    • Assess the degree to which both human rights and democratic ideals and practices have been advanced in the world during the 20th century.
    • Analyze causes of economic imbalances and social inequalities among the world’s peoples and assess efforts made to close these gaps.




Women, War & Peace, Episode 3: “Peace Unveiled,” selected segments

Access the video segments for this lesson at the Video Segments Page.

Clip 1: “Women in Afghanistan Today”
A look at efforts two Afghan women are taking to help others, as well as dangers faced by women in Afghanistan today.

Clip 2: “Life During and After Taliban Rule”

An overview of life in Afghanistan during and after Taliban rule and women’s efforts to participate in the country’s peace process.

Clip 3: “Fighting to be Heard”

A look at efforts by women of Afghanistan to participate in government and the peace process.

Clip 4: “Supporting the Women of Afghanistan”

A look at Afghanistan’s need for international support and actions taken by the US to advocate for Afghan women.



For use in Learning Activity 2:

Women, War & Peace: “Peace Unveiled” Discussion Guide

This discussion guide features information about “Peace Unveiled,” Afghanistan, the Taliban and the rights of women under Islam, as well as related resources and questions to help viewers think more deeply about the program’s content. The guide’s “Background Information” section is used in this lesson.


For use in the Culminating Activity:

Empowering Women Peacemakers in the Niger Delta

This section on the United States Institute of Peace website describes efforts to empower women in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria to address conflict in their communities.

Women Peacemakers in Iraq

This section on the United States Institute of Peace website describes efforts to improve the security and status of women in Iraq.


Women as Mediators in Pacific Conflict Zones

This section of the ISIS International website describes the role women have played in peacebuilding efforts in the Pacific Islands of Fiji, Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands.


Related Resources:

Women, Peace and Security

This report created by the United Nations explores the impact of armed conflict on women and girls, the role of women in peacebuilding and the gender dimensions of peace processes and conflict resolution around the world.


Campaign for Afghan Women and Girls/ The Taliban and Women

This section of the Feminist Majority Foundation’s website provides information about the Taliban and the restrictions they placed on women.



For the class:

  • Computers with internet access
  • Computer, projection screen and speakers (for class viewing of online/downloaded video segments)
  • The “Background Information” section of the “Peace Unveiled” discussion guide.
    Note: This discussion guide could either be used online or printed out for use in Learning Activity 2. During the activity, the class will be divided into 5 groups and each group will be assigned to one of the topics in the Background Information section (“History of Afghanistan,” “Understanding Afghan Culture,” etc.). Print out enough copies of pages 4-6 in the Discussion Guide so that each student gets the page that contains information about his/her group’s assigned topic.

For each student:

  • One copy of the “Facts about Afghanistan Student Organizer.” (Download here.)


Prior to teaching this lesson, you will need to:


Preview all of the video segments and websites used in the lesson.

Preview the “Peace Unveiled” discussion guide and the description of Learning Activity 2. If you plan to have students access the guide online during the lesson, bookmark the site on each computer they will be using. If you plan to print out the guide, see the “materials” section above for details.


Download the video clips used in the lesson to your classroom computer(s) or prepare to watch them using your classroom’s internet connection.


Print out one copy of the “Facts about Afghanistan Student Organizer” for each student. (See the “materials” section above.)


Bookmark all websites which you plan to use in the lesson on each computer in your classroom. Using a social bookmarking tool such as del.icio.us or diigo (or an online bookmarking utility such as portaportal) will allow you to organize all the links in a central location.


Proceed to Lesson Activities