The Afghan Sk8ter Girrls of Kabul (Video) – (Female Literacy has Tripled in Afghanistan)

Skateistan is a skateboard NGO in Kabul, which maintains a facility for skateboarding and gets as many as 300 youth to attend as spectators at competitions.

The organization maintains that 40% of skateboarders in Kabul are girls and young women, and that it is one of few relatively gender-integrated sports.

Although in the 1990s under the Taliban, Afghan women were mostly forced to veil, secluded and attempts were made to deny them an education, the history of girls’ and young women’s lives in the country is far more varied in modern history. In the 1980s under the Communist government urban women had gained many rights and freedoms, and most girls were put in schools. In the late 1960s, young women from elite families in Kabul had participated in the miniskirt craze.

Since the dark days of 1999 and 2000, when the Taliban forbade girls’ schooling, there has been very substantial progress. Over 3.2 million girls are now in school, and via UNICEF programs the Afghanistan government expects a 20% increase in primary school enrollment in 2013. Since 2001, female literacy has tripled. But it still stands at only 13%, among the lowest in the world.

Despite the hatred for UN agencies among the US right wing, especially the Neoconservatives, UNICEF is among the main drivers of increased female education and literacy in Afghanistan, and deserves our support.

In much of Afghanistan, sadly, gender segregation and obstacles to women’s education and careers are still thrown up by traditionalist men, even many who despise the Taliban. Of the over 4 million school-age Afghan children not attending classes, about 60% are girls.

17 Responses

  1. As a Muslim, I have to say it is deplorable that the Soviet-puppet regime of the 1980′s is being paraded as one of the high points for anything in Afghanistan.

    As for the Taliban, at least they are a group based on the interpretation of Islam adhered to within Afghanistan itself for decades; besides, tens of millions of Muslim families will never consider letting their post-pubescent women wander outside the house for any reason whatsoever, whether they are under the Taliban, the US, the Communists, or anybody else. I know this sounds stupefying for urban Westerners, but this is the reality in much of the world, and it is not something negotiable for millions of Muslims.

    That even an ostensibly “enlightened liberal site” is pushing the Soviet era as a golden age for Afghani life in some aspect shows that the Westerners still consider Muslim people as somewhat of baboons that have to be brought up to humanity, no matter who brings about that change.

    • The note of sarcasm in your description of Professor Cole’s site as an ostensibly “enlightened liberal site” because he suggests that Afghan women had more freedom and girls were allowed to attend school in the 1980s, juxtaposed against your apparent approval of the Taliban in your observation: “As for the Taliban, at least they are a group based on the interpretation of Islam adhered to within Afghanistan itself for decades; besides, tens of millions of Muslim families will never consider letting their post-pubescent women wander outside the house for any reason whatsoever,” betrays an antedeluvian attitude toward women and modernity.

      Perhaps a little more “enlightened liberal” thought, as well as an attempt to come to terms with modernity, would be in order, both for the Taliban and, apparently, for you as well.

    • “Tens of millions of Muslim families will never consider letting their post-pubescent women wander outside the house for any reason whatsoever”
      And you think an enlightened person would condone and respect this? The people being controlled comprise tens of millions of Muslims. What gives males the right to see them as their property?
      The fact that the Communists put girls in schools while the Taliban keep them illiterate speaks for itself

    • As a Muslim, I have to say it is deplorable that the Soviet-puppet regime of the 1980′s is being paraded as one of the high points for anything in Afghanistan.

      As a human being, I have to say it is deplorable that the Soviet-puppet regime of the 1980s actually was one of the high points for certain things in Afghanistan.

    • I hate to pile on here, but Hossein – when did Cole push the era as a “golden age for Afghani life in some aspect” or a “high point”? He states some pretty uncontroversial facts that are relevant to the video – women had rights, studied, and sometimes wore miniskirts. On the basis of this, you’ve gone into a rant about westerners viewing muslims as baboons.
      Maybe you could be a little more upfront about your beliefs instead. If you think women simply exist to cook and breed, and you’re horrified by seeing women unveiled, just say so (although the prophet would despise your small-mindedness – just look at who his first wife was). Don’t hide behind the “tens of millions of muslim families” line.

    • The three monotheistic religions are, at best, myopic, filled with antiquated ideas and pompous and patriarchal teachings. They have little to no clue of cosmic and global consciousness as it exists today. It is a new age of the Feminine and the men who dictate Christian, Judaic and Islamic laws still slumber in their un-knowingness.

      • Then who gets to decide what is the situation with a child if not the parents? It sounds like the view of a totalitarian regime, where children are forcibly taken out of the parents’ arms because Uncle Sam or Uncle Mao know best.

        Perhaps the parents do not want education for their children, and are happy to themselves and their children to be menial workers for the rest of their lives; perhaps they are happy thinking that they will not reach their 50th birthday due to the economically low status they are in. Even today, only about half of the world is functionally literate, and I do not see any military action being taken to impose functional literacy everywhere.

        The economic angle of secular education is not enough to impose it on everyone, especially when the correlation is not always there. There are so many studies which show that across the globe, people do not always read and comprehend things on a level commensurate to the their formal grade. In our world today, many of not most of us are forced to take on jobs unrelated with what we did in University

        This is even less so when such huge loss of life and property are incurred in the process. If a tenth of the population is killed, a fourth is forced to flee, and a lot of the infrastructure flattened so that all the uneducated women can get education, by what metrics did such an operation become a success? (You cannot teach dead people to become literate, and refugees have had their whole lives disrupted, I do not see education being one of their goals).

  2. This is wonderful! Can you provide an address or website addy for donations?

  3. It’s worth remembering that Saudi Arabia and the US were critical in promoting extreme fundamentalism in Afghanistan. While other factors are undoubtedly relevant to Afghanistan’s culture–Pashtunwali, for example, is more determinative of behavior than religion–the following is worth noting: “By the end of September 1996 the Taliban had conquered Kabul and had extended their rule to twenty-two of the country’s thirty-one provinces. They announced that their godly government would be known as the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, and while most of the world prudently stepped back and waited, three countries granted this unusual entity official recognition: Pakistan, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia.” The Taliban began issuing prohibitions: “no kite flying, no pool tables, no music, no nail polish, no toothpaste, no televisions, no beard shaving…[T]he Taliban also…closed all girls’ schools and colleges, and banned women from working…These draconian regulations were enforced by religious police squads…that were built directly on the Saudi model of fundamentalist vigilantes and drew support from Saudi religious charities.” Not for the “first or last time, Saudi favor to Islamic purists had helped give birth to a monster…” link to detailedpoliticalquizzes.wordpress.com

    • This is incorrect.

      The Taliban actually were a creation of Pakistani intelligence(ISI) that took control of Afghanistan from the various warlords that the CIA, Red China, and Saudis backed in the 1980s to fight the Communist government in Kabul. From 1992 until 1996 these warlords controlled Afghanistan after they toppled the last Marxist regime headed by President Najibullah.

      The Taliban fought the Northern Alliance for control of the nation and were diplomatically recognized only by Pakistan.

      The Northern Alliance had the charismatic Ahmad Shah Massoud as one of its key leaders – he was assassinated just two days prior to the 9/11 hijackings by Al-Qaeda loyalists.

      While the CIA succeeded in winning this Cold War sideshow, they failed to establish an infrastructure and stable government within Afghanistan and this ultimately led to the takeover by the Taliban militia and an Al-Qaeda presence.

      • “The Taliban fought the Northern Alliance for control of the nation and were diplomatically recognized only by Pakistan.”

        One correction, Mark. The Taliban regime in Afghanistan was recognized by Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates. Of course, all three withdrew recognition after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks against the U.S.

      • Good comment, Mark.

        The Taliban actually were a creation of Pakistani intelligence(ISI)

        You see this conflation between the ISI and the United States very frequently. Given the existence of the bin Laden compound in Abbottobad, these theory seems a bit shaky.

  4. I can remember researching the issue in the 1970s and discovering that only about 5% of the Afghan population at that time was literate – tying it for last with Somalia as the least literate nation in the world.

    Marxism has traditionally promoted universal education. Vladimir Lenin’s wife, Nadezhda Krupskaya, was a strong proponent of education.

  5. I think when a country like Afghanistan is debated, and the quality of life and well being of a country is discussed, there is often a confusion. Here Prof. Cole’s main thesis is literacy rates. He could also be talking about life expectancy and infant mortality. He also talks about gender segregation which again has more to do with cultural values and should not be automatically attached to fundamentalist religious indoctrination.
    I was viewing a documentary by Tahir Quadiry couple of weeks ago, 3 Afghani families from different socio stratosphere were part of this study which was an expose to the notion of “Bachah Posh” practiced in today’s Afghanistan. What is “bacha posh” you might ask? In Afghanistan’s largely conservative, male-dominated society, a son is often viewed as a family’s most valuable resource, so families who are not blessed with male offspring dress their girls as boys, not just dress them but the child is literally turn to a boy.
    It was a very unsettling documentary in my view, but never the less it shows Afghanistan culture of patriarchy, the showcase of this documentary is a prominent and highly educated family, an attorney and member of Parliament if I remember correctly. I have enclosed the documentary for those who are interested.
    Anyhow what I am trying to iterate here is that modernization is an evolution, and road to modernity not only must bridge the gap of religious dogma/doctrine, which is fabric of some of these societies, but it must also come to term and consent with the cultural value systems in most often patriarchal society.
    Hence it is naivete to think that Taliban is root of the problems, or Islam is the root of all evil, there are 1.5 billion Muslims in the world, and gender separation, status of women, right to education, are very different from country to country. As Franz Kafka once said; ”
    “Believing in progress does not mean believing that any progress has yet been made.”
    Here is the documentary I promised;
    link to youtube.com

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