Carolyn Kissane


Lack of rights and access to education are problems that have challenged Afghan women throughout the history of their country. True political reform in Afghanistan is contingent upon the solving of these problems, as women’s education is essential not only for the development of a more stable government, but also for raising living standards. Women’s lack of access to education in Afghanistan is reinforced by beliefs rooted in the religious and familial tradition of community. Although Islamic ideologies have often been distorted and manipulated by leaders to control and subjugate the lives of women, Islam cannot be ignored in the democratization of Afghanistan; it plays too great a role in Afghan society. Therefore, Islam must be respected and invoked as a catalyst to promote women’s education and rights. The Islamic Republic of Afghanistan presents a complex landscape in which to examine the gender roles and relations generally, and a woman’s access to education specifically, as they are embedded in the country’s history and religious ideology. The democratization of education requires a pluralistic education model that involves State and nongovernmental sectors, including secular and non-secular institutions, making itself accessible and acceptable to the greatest number of Afghans possible. Education that teaches and encourages critical thought, ijtihad, and introduces concepts of gender equality—supported by Qur’anic scholarship led by Islamic feminists—is imperative. This is a bottom-up approach to education, which centralizes the needs and interests of Afghan women and girls. It is the aim of this chapter to explore the possibilities of education for girls as a motivating influence on democratization and how a pluralistic approach to education can alleviate the historical gender inequities that have hindered the country for centuries.

Author Biography

Carolyn Kissane serves as clinical associate professor at the Center for Global Affairs (CGA) at NYU. She teaches graduate courses examining the Central Asian region, comparative energy politics, resource security, and civil society organizations. She is the coordinator of the energy and environment concentration. Kissane is the author of work on transitional challenges in education in Central Asia and human rights education in Europe, and challenges of resource security.