In a move that has drawn both praise and criticism, Afghanistan’s capital university is offering its first Master’s degree in gender and women’s studies. Since the United States boosted the Taliban from power in 2001, women who were previously banned completely from public life have made advances, with millions of girls going back to school. Nevertheless, women are still greatly disadvantaged in Afghanistan, where they face violence in public and at home and are sidelined from political life and higher education. Students and faculty argue that a women’s studies program could help spread awareness and put people in the workforce to promote gender equality. But the initiative is not welcomed by everyone. Some see the program as more unwanted foreign intervention (it is sponsored by South Korea and the UN Development Programme) and has raised the ire of conservative muslims. “There is no gender equality in Islam,” Abdul Bari Hamidi, an Islamic studies scholar said. “In family affairs, the head of the family must be a man, and being an Imam is limited to men.” Others see Kabul University as an awkward fit for the program, given it has been the scene of protests against women’s rights.
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