March 2022 - Hosna is a 19-year-old Afghan alumna of UNITAR’s 2021 digital upskilling programme, and she is distressed about the gender gap in Afghanistan. Hosna was attending university in Kabul when the Afghan regime changed overnight in August 2021. Fearing for her safety, she fled to Iraq, where she now continues her undergraduate studies. Hosna worries about her sister and friends back home.

“My brothers are going to school. My sister does not,” says Hosna. While some schools in Kabul are open to girls, her family does not feel safe for her sister to attend. The same is true for her female friends.

They’re just sitting at home right now.

Press Briefing with Women from Afghanistan (c) 10/21/2021 2:55:18 PM, UN Photo/Loey Felipe

Afghanistan was at the bottom of the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap 2021 rankings, which came out five months before the political transition in August 2021. Since then, segregation between women and men has become stricter, not only at educational institutions but in jobs, the political arena, and even in households. Combined with serious economic deterioration, poverty, and worsening security, many women suffer from violations of their human rights to safety and freedom. Hosna also worries that early marriage for girls is increasing.

Woman studying coding

Hosna believes that self-study is key to empowering women in Afghanistan. She feels it is yet too risky for their safety to raise their voices in public and it may be hard to change the situation in the short term. But with a laptop and internet, Hosna believes, learning will open doors for all women.

She sees her experience with the online UNITAR programme from May to July 2021 as a good example. In the programme, Hosna learned about and honed skills in apps development and ethics in digital technologies, as well as about gender and the Sustainable Development Goals. Now that women in Afghanistan are staying home, she keenly feels the potential of both online learning and digital skills to safely connect women with work opportunities and the outer world.

Hosna sighs reflecting how things have changed since she was in the programme and now. In the confusion and panic in August 2021, she evacuated on a day’s notice from Kabul to another country through the arrangements of her university, American University of Afghanistan. She feared that her affiliation with the American institution may harm her family – thus, her decision to go.

Even in exile, Hosna always thinks and acts for the people of her country. She is now preparing for the launch of her project, providing an online platform for women in Afghanistan to learn programming and English.

We can change our own life with learning. We did. And we can.

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