Voices from Vienna: Advocating for Afghan Girls‘ Education


Nargis Mommand, Afghan peace and education activist, speaking at Vienna's City Hall on the importance of girls' education on May 3, 2024. Photo by @Ali Ahmad for ADN.


The Afghan Cultural Association AKIS, in collaboration with the Vienna Institute for International Dialogue and Cooperation (VIDC) organized a two-day event titled “Overcoming Borders, Shaping the Future: Empowering Afghan Women and Girls through Education.” The event began with a festive reception hosted by the Mayor of Vienna on May 3rd in the Vienna City Hall basement, followed by a conference on May 4th. The primary goal was to raise awareness about the significant educational barriers faced by Afghan women and girls and to highlight the critical situation in Afghanistan.

Nargis Mommand, an Afghan education rights activist, delivered the following speech. It has been edited for clarity, with no changes to the content.


I am from a country where there are five million girls deprived of secondary school, and more than 600,000 girls are deprived of university. Additionally, 81,000 female teachers and 40,000 female employees of the previous government lost their jobs. 

I’m from a country where, in one year, more than 9,000 madrassas are built instead of schools. I am from a country where only 50 decrees have been issued against women, and forced marriage is a significant issue. Inheritance rights have not been addressed for a long time, and women are denied medical care. Furthermore, 28 million people are living in poverty, and women are not allowed to attend medical university. Fathers have to sell their daughters not only because of poverty but also because they lack any hope for the future. I’m from a country where beating women is allowed in public. Additionally, a high number of women and girls commit suicide every day due to having no hope for their lives.

Ladies and gentlemen!

I stand before you today to draw your attention to a critical issue in the 21st century, the neglect of the regime at the heart of Asia called Afghanistan. This land has been ravaged by warfare for nearly four decades. It has been hit hard by poverty, where the mere status of being a woman is often stigmatized, and the universal word ‘freedom’ is always missing.

Ladies and gentlemen!

As I speak before you today, my heart is burnt with the sorrow of my homeland, yet it is also filled with unwavering determination. We are gathered here not just to represent our own country but as a gathering of our principles that are under threat in our homeland. Of course, 15th August is not only the fall of a government but also a reversal of the hard-fought democracy, especially for our nation’s women.

In these 20 years, women have newly learned how to drink water from a lake, a lake of crocodiles. Women were provided with their fundamental rights such as education, work, media, and social media. They were provided with every kind of thing that they needed. But now, just see how the Taliban do nothing but prevent women from their every kind of rights.”

Ladies and gentlemen!

Please, just take a moment and reconsider. If your daughters were not allowed to go to school for even just one day, what would you think? Of course, nobody wants this. No Afghan wants this. Nobody wants any further of this in Afghanistan, but they’re faced with this reality. They have to do this. They have to not let their daughters go to school because of the government, but vigorous women are not allowed to do this. Afghan girls deserve the right to proper schooling, pursuing their dreams of becoming doctors, scientists, engineers, artists, politicians, and more.

Like the thing that I’m very worried about, I usually talk with my students. Yesterday also, I had the last conversation with my students. They’re always very worried. They just wanted me to share their message with you, so here I share the message. Of course, I share one message from one of my students that they wanted you all to hear. 

So, she is Zeenat. She says, ’15th August is the first time that was the day that I prayed to my God and I said, “Oh my God, oh my God, why was I born in Afghanistan? Why am I a girl?” Of course, Afghanistan is the worst country in the world to be a girl, but we will not be silent. We will try. We will try and we will reach our voices to different countries of the world. We will not lose. I will study in each way that I can. Of course, I don’t have books. Of course, I don’t have new books. Of course, I don’t have a school and university to go to, but I will try hard. I will try to study my previous books. And I want the world to know that we are not the girls of 20 years before. We are the new version of Afghanistan. We will not lose hope. We will try our best. We will fight until we win.’ This was completely the message of one of my students and exactly the word that I only translated.

Austria is one of the countries that always has an important political role in Afghanistan. So, we want Austria and the different countries around the world, the international community, to assist us, to help us, to not leave us alone, to help us amplify the voices of the girls. We want them to support us without supporting the regime of the Taliban. 

We want them to aid Afghan organizations. We want them to support organizations that are working for human rights, providing remote education, and employment opportunities. 

We want the international community on our side in this historical fight for the sake of humanity, dignity, and democracy. 

So, let’s stand together on the right side of history, amplify the call for change, and support girls’ education. 

Raise your voices, share this message. 

The world’s attention is a powerful force, and together we can help reopen the doors of education to the brave girls in Afghanistan. 

So, let’s work together, and let’s keep the flag of freedom flying higher and higher than yesterday, for a peaceful Afghanistan, for a peaceful world, and for peaceful countries around the world.

Thank you! 

Note: The contents of the article are of sole responsibility of the author. Afghan Diaspora Network will not be responsible for any inaccurate or incorrect statement in the articles.

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