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On 20 December 2022, Neda Mohammad Nadeem, Minister of Higher Education of Afghanistan, issued a letter to the HEIs across the country to impose an indefinite ban on Afghan women’s access to higher education. Taliban government justified this decision based on a conviction that the current curricula and social environment in HEIs are not ‘appropriate’ for Afghan women. The decision builds on a plethora of actions taken by the Taliban government in the aftermath of their coming to power in August 2021: ban on girls’ access to secondary education in March, ban on women’s access to parks and gyms in November and serious restrictions on women’s right to work except for certain sectors such as healthcare.
In response, the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) and the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) announced that a new scholarship programme worth around EUR 7 million will be launched to support more than 5 000 Afghan women to study in one of the neighbouring countries by the end of 2027: Bangladesh, Kyrgyzstan and Pakistan. As part of the programme, the DAAD will award bachelor scholarships for Afghan women at Asian University for Women in Bangladesh, scholarships for master’s students at the American University of Central Asia (AUCA) in Kyrgyzstan, and bachelor’s and master’s scholarships via partner organisations in Pakistan.
Similarly, The Institute of International Education (IIE) issued a press release in solidarity with Afghan women and called for more support from international actors. As part of their Afghanistan Crisis Response, the IIE have been mobilising scholarships and funding to Afghan students and scholars through various programmes such as IIE’s Odyssey Scholarship, The IIE Emergency Student Fund, IIE’s Scholar Rescue Fund, and The Qatar Scholarships for Afghans Project (QSAP). As a reaction to the Afghan ministerial decision from 20 December, the IIE aims to expand their support further to Afghan women.