Academic journal article Planning and Changing

Men Behind the Women of Educational Leadership in Afghanistan

Academic journal article Planning and Changing

Men Behind the Women of Educational Leadership in Afghanistan

Article excerpt

The majority of the world benefits neither from capitalism nor from democratic systems. Most of the globe experiences the state as repressive, as an organization that is concerned about denial of rights-about denial ofjustice, rather than provision of it.

- Ashraf Ghani, President of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan (2010, May 22)

In early 2015, as the International Security Assistance Forces (ISAF) began to draw down their combat mission in Afghanistan and a warweary world turned its attention toward bigger bullies on the global playground, the nation's officials confirmed that the Islamic State (IS)-one of the most significant terrorists' organizations to emerge since al Qaeda-entered Helmand Province in the southern part of the country (Loyn, 2015). Even so, the Taliban remains a power with which to be reckoned through its inscrutable persistence and resilience. It continues to demonstrate ability to control areas in southern, northern, and eastern regions of Afghanistan (Laub, 2014; United Nations Security Council, 2014).

During the upcoming fragile and precarious transition with security, it remains unclear if the Taliban will emerge victorious on the Afghan stage or if other actors will usurp its power (Laub, 2014). With unrelenting regularity, Taliban terrorists deploy improvised explosive devices, rocketpropelled grenades, and suicide bombers throughout the country (Saramad & Sultani, 2013). Conflict-related civilian deaths increased from 1,052 in 2009 to 1,564 in 2014 (Laub, 2014). Reilly (2014) described in poignant terms how a visit to Parliament is similar to paying respects to the dead at a graveyard: photographs are displayed throughout the desks in the chamber, memorializing the dignitaries who have lost their lives during service to the nation.

While all citizens of Afghanistan have suffered extraordinary deprivation in the past 30 years, the story of women and of their survival even in the face of incalculable odds in the past 100 years is well documented (Nemat, 2011). Today, while girls and women's security is chronically at risk, women in leadership remain one of favored targets of the Taliban's wrath. Its November 2014 unsuccessful attempt to assassinate one of the Afghanistan National Assembly's most visible and widely respected advocates for women's rights, Shukria Barakzai, who miraculously walked away with only minor injuries, left three bystanders dead (Goldstein, 2014). Nevertheless, the 59 nations whose delegates attended the London Conference in December 2014 appeared to affirm their support to ensure Afghanistan does not devolve into civil war or a new proxy state for terrorists (Weinbaum & Yousufzy, 2015). These international forums also serve to reinforce the voice of Afghan women in the establishment of civil society and remind the world that the country's women will not bow to the tyrannical and repressive dictates of their nation's extremists (Emerson, 2010; Lackenbauer & Harriman, 2012).

Afghanistan, which is a part of the 4,000-mile trade route known as the Silk Road, has served as an important center of commerce for millennia (Barfield, 2010). Today, one of its principal challenges is how it can preserve its ancient roots while embracing modernity (Kuchins, Sanderson, & Gordon, 2010). In his first treatise on globalization, Thomas Friedman suggested in The Lexus and the Olive Tree that countries most successful in the 21st century are those that continually grapple creatively with the tension of opposites and find ways to honor the past and imagine the future (2010). The challenge of ancient ways with modernity is singularly poignant in Afghanistan, suffering from over three decades of devastation.

For over a decade, international reports from many agencies such as The World Bank, UNICEF, and the United Nations have presented the impact that unrest and insecurity has had on civil society generally and on Afghan women more specifically (see for example, The World Bank, 2004, 2005; UNICEF, 2015; United Nations Development Programme, 2013; UNESCO, 2014; United Nations Security Council, 2000, 2014). …

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