Afghanistan’s first women and gender studies program now in session

Since the Taliban was ousted from power 14 years ago, Afghanistan's government has taken steps to improve the status of women, including in education. NewsHour's Megan Thompson reports.

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  • MEGAN THOMPSON:

    Twenty-eight students at Kabul University filed for a first-of-its-kind class for Afghanistan.

    It's the introductory course in a new master's degree program in gender and women's studies in a county that has long struggled to provide equal rights to women.

    When the Taliban seized power in 1996, the hard-line Islamist regime banned women and girls from going to school, having jobs outside the home, or even stepping out in public without being covered head to toe in a burqa.

    After the U.S.-led invasion after 9/11 toppled the Taliban in 2001, Afghanistan's new constitution guaranteed women's rights.

    There's been progress, but many Afghan women remain marginalized, and violence against women has been on the rise.

    For example, earlier this year, an angry mob beat a 27-year-old female law student to death in the center of Kabul, the nation's capital.

    Protesters renewed calls for the government to do more to protect women.

    Still, millions of Afghan girls and women have gone back to school, their access to higher education remains limited.

    One Islamic studies professor at Kabul University disapproves of the new women's studies program there, because, he said, women are not, in fact, equal to men.

    Students in the two-year program hope to change those beliefs.

  • ZHEELA RAFHAT, STUDENT:

    This gender program is really needed in Afghanistan, because many women do not know about their rights, so through this program, we can make women aware of their rights, which enables them to work and study in this society, and we also want to tell women that you are not only made for housework.

  • MEGAN THOMPSON:

    The university expects these empowered graduate students to spread that message beyond these classroom walls.

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