Will You Send Your Daughter to School? Norms, Violence, and Girls' Education in Uruzgan, Afghanistan
Access to education for all children around the world is supported by international human rights conventions. Despite this broad endorsement, some international actors wonder whether promoting access to education for girls may conflict with dominant local attitudes, values, or customs. Using stratified survey data and complementary qualitative interview data, this study explores why parents in Uruzgan, Afghanistan, choose to send their boys and girls to school, what prevents them from doing so, and what kinds of normative tensions emerge during this process. First, our data show that placing value on their boys’ education is not enough to prompt parents to enroll them in school; parents also must perceive that educating their boys will have future returns, thus prioritizing pragmatic assessments over normative value. However, those who send both boys and girls to school are more likely to prioritize the value of education. Second, our data show that parents who report experiencing or having personal knowledge of a higher number of attacks against education are less likely to send their children to school. Finally, our data show that normative struggles over girls’ education take place primarily within the local community and society, rather than between foreign organizations and the local population. Regardless of education level, both men and women cite tenets of Islam as a key motivation for educating both girls and boys. Although some describe education as a human right, they say that Islam is the source of these rights, not Western organizations or institutions. The greater challenge for aid workers, therefore, is pragmatic (to ensure security) rather than normative (to promote beliefs about the appropriateness of education).
The authors discuss their work in the Behind the Pages podcast episode embedded below: