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Discussing the spillover effects of Taliban’s ban on women’s education

By Saumya Seth and Sanya Seth 


This article endeavors to explore the policy ramifications of Taliban’s ban on girls education. In a progressively globalized, dynamic international landscape, the repercussions of this ban are not limited to the region in question or to the populace directly influenced. Thus the article acknowledges the presence of externalities of this decision for other countries; namely the implications for economic and environmental climate. The article suggests that policy makers must devise a concrete action plan involving globally coordinated policy decisions and clearly stated norms, targeted towards easing the restrictions on girls and helping them survive the ban by providing financial and technical assistance.

It was a seemingly tranquil morning in Kabul, Afghanistan. The sun was shining and the birds were singing. But for one young woman… Well, let’s just say, reality hit her the hardest when she was trying to hide from it the most. 

Amina had been a passionate student all her life so habitually she set an alarm for the next morning. But she was filled with dread after realizing she had overslept and was in danger of missing her lecture. She scrambled to her mother, frantically asking why she had not been woken up in time. Her mother gave her a hug and asked her to wash up for breakfast, handing her the newspaper. As soon as she read the headline, “Taliban Stands Firm: No Education for Girls for 5th Straight Day”, Amina’s heart sank. She realized that her dreams of attending university had been put on hold due to the Afghan Taliban government’s ban on girls attending school. In that moment, she could not bring herself to believe what she was seeing, and her ambitions were suddenly put on pause.

Dear readers, if you felt a strong sense of concern or sympathy for Amina after hearing about her situation, this article is tailored for you because you probably forgot “we’re all in this together.” The global discussion and uproar surrounding the decision and its potential repercussions on Afghanistan’s economy is justified, given the country’s existing poverty and lack of skilled personnel and infrastructure to help them out of this crisis. Of even greater concern is the way it will affect women’s rights to gain an independent income and to access education and empowerment. But, the education ban is a social policy that would catalyze negative social interaction spillover effects for the control group at the local, national, and global levels and will manifest in a variety of ways. Hence, what we are overlooking in the midst of our worry are the potential externalities of this decision; its implications for us as individuals, regardless of gender and geographical location. 

Possible for effects to trek the distance ?

In a world where more integration and interconnectedness between nations, cultures, and economies are being leveraged to achieve the SDGs, this restriction is an inopportune social policy. The reason is that, in addition to preventing a successful fulfillment, this ban (opposing the SDG of quality education directly) would even indirectly reverse the progress made towards achieving the three most effective SDGs, namely SDG 8 (Decent Work and Economic Growth), and SDG 12 (Responsible Consumption and Production), which define the economic and environmental climate of a nation and the world, respectively. 

The Domino of World Economies: The Potential Effect On The Economic Climate

In her address at  the Global Women’s Network Summit in  2015, Mrs. Laura Bush mentioned “Only countries where all people are involved can be successful. When we look around the world and we see countries where half of the population is marginalized or left out, then we usually see countries that are failing.”

But my question is, where does this domino end? Is it limited to a family, a generation, a city, a nation? In a tech-driven world that regards no boundaries, no goods and no bads go unpooled. 

With the blooming population in the world, the calculations regarding resource usage and control are always on the top of the head and with advances in technology, i.e AI and digital tools, the geopolitics of resources is an area of growing concern. Developing technologies may begin with powerful ideas and revolutionary models, but they do not run on thin air; their backbone is that of resources, particularly scarce metals. Most nations want to gain control of these metals, which are unevenly distributed around the world, to avoid a total shutdown or becoming obsolete in a rapidly growing world. American geologists and Pentagon officials found nearly $1 trillion in mineral deposits, including the elements and metals, like copper, rare earth elements, platinum, bauxite, and lithium, required to power the expanding tech industry, in Afghanistan. In his book titled, ‘The Rare Metals War: The Dark Side of Clean Energy and Digital Technologies’, Guillaume Pitron also highlighted the growing importance of these minerals in our much encouraged energy transition away from non-renewable resources like oil and coal. With its resource potential, Afghanistan could become the melting point of economic, geopolitical and environmental stability but development in Afghanistan is faced with the twin challenges of deep political and economic instability. The effects of these percolate into the ordinary, resulting in a lack of essential infrastructure such as roads, energy, and electricity networks, making it difficult to capitalize on the available resources. Furthermore, the lack of educational opportunities for women further decreases the workforce that can aid in improving infrastructure, only compounding the issue. The combination of a dearth of skilled labor, neanderthal approach to development and unpredictable socio-economic conditions make Afghanistan a less than attractive place for foreign direct investments, such as those from the United States and China. The world economy may lose out on the potential advantages of greater trade and investment opportunities, new supplies of energy and minerals, and improved infrastructure development if Afghanistan’s resource potential (including human resources) is not realized. Additionally, firms around the world wouldn’t be able to benefit from new markets and investment chances, which could result in lost economic prospects. 

As nations rush against time to develop and achieve strength, the vulnerability of being at war worsens, with consequences for the environment and the economy. Not to be overlooked is the talk by Dr. Kathleen Kuehnast, director of the U.S. Institute of Peace’s Center for Gender and Peacebuilding, in which she discusses the importance of women’s education in fostering tolerance and reducing extremist ideologies that could spark conflict or act as a catalyst for terrorism. The economies of the globe may be challenged by the lack of assurance for peace and global security from a nation as resource-rich as Afghanistan due to the lack of education for women in a state with a history of armed conflict and extremist Muslim ideology.

The Domino of Global Environments: The Potential Effect on the Environmental Climate

We could certainly clear the air regarding the dubiety of Erna Solberg’s statement, “The fact is that we will not be able to achieve the sustainable development goals without investing in women and girls,” given that goal 12 of the sustainable development goals urges people to improve resource efficiency, reduce waste, and create a new circular economy to address the unsustainable patterns of consumption and production that are the main causes of the triple planetary crisis. There is an apparent (and tragic) explanation for this: women are still disproportionately responsible for the domestic realm in addition to being more powerful consumers overall. They still assume the responsibility of taking care of and running their household, including being concerned about the laundry, cleaning, and recycling. This has led to an “eco gender gap,” where green branding may just as effectively be pink. Furthermore, advertisers run the risk of delivering the idea that sustainability is women’s work with eco-friendly campaigns and products targeted toward female audiences. Being the target consumers of most of the organic market product lines and having a primary role in economic decisions like the household’s expenditure on perishables, through their varied roles in the economy, and society, women have a colossal impact on natural resource management. Thus, a ban on imparting education to females and decision-makers would render the primary consumers illiterate, and they would end up making uninformed choices owing to the absence of complete and symmetric market information. Compliance with the three pillars of the circular economy that aim to design for longevity—reduce, reuse, and recycle—demands intelligence and efficiency in the choice of alternative resources by consumers across the globe, which is definitely impossible without involving 100% of the population. Thus, the empowerment of women is a prerequisite for creating a sustainable society and achieving not only Goal 12 but all five planet goals. Research studies have found that countries with high female representation in parliament are more likely to ratify international environmental treaties; for instance, women’s leadership became critical to the success of the Paris Agreement on climate change. Though these claims in no way aim to take away the essence of the idea that development and welfare mandate gender-neutral education policies, even the 2011 UNDP Human Development Report indicates that air pollution, forest loss, and other indicators of environmental degradation are higher when gender disparity is greater. Thus hinting us of the global ramifications for the environment, if women are robbed of their rights to education and consequently right to independent income in Afghanistan.

The above-discussed domino effects could undo the economic, social, and environmental stability that the policymakers have achieved to date. Despite the international community’s response of mere lip service, the implications of such a restriction on education, which is a key indicator of development (Amartya Sen’s indicator for development), could be disastrous for this globalized and integrated world. In order to effectively address this issue, policy makers must devise a concrete action plan involving globally coordinated policy decisions and clearly stated norms, targeted towards easing the restrictions on girls and helping them survive the ban by providing financial and technical assistance to enable the attainment of online education, if nothing else.

About the Authors

Saumya Seth and Sanya Seth are third year undergraduates at Ashoka University Sonipat, where they are pursuing BSc Economics and Finance Hons. Their works have been published in various magazines and journals, and they are currently working on crafting their lives, such that they make for an inspiring read.

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