Pitt center helps launch University Network for Afghan Women

March 25, 2024

Shortly after their return to power in the fall of 2021, the Taliban banned Afghan girls over the age of 12 from attending school and severely limited the freedoms of women in public spaces across the country.  This spring, researchers at Pitt’s Center for Governance and Markets (CGM) joined peers at ten other institutions to launch the University Network for Afghan Women, an alliance focused on addressing this gender-based discrimination and supporting the education of Afghan women for generations to come. 

The University Network for Afghan Women is hosted by the US-Afghan Women’s Council, a nonpartisan partnership that has aimed to support Afghan women and girls since its founding in 2002. Members will collaborate with the American University of Afghanistan to provide online university education and English language training for women in Afghanistan, train women entrepreneurs, provide scholarships and fellowships to female Afghan scholars, and advocate for the right of Afghan women to education and other basic human rights.  The alliance will also support female Afghan refugees who have fled the country in the wake of the US military’s withdrawal.

Joi"Professor Jennifer Brick Murtazashvili"ning the University Network for Afghan Women was a clear choice for the team at CGM, Founding Director and Professor Jennifer Brick Murtazashvili explained in conversation with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette earlier this month, but its creation is just the first step toward lasting progress.

“There's no other country in the world that refuses girls' education,” she said, describing the situation as a “catastrophe,” and “very, very dangerous” for Afghan women and girls. “The network is formed, so the next part is really putting pressure on people to act… At a time when there's so many domestic issues that are of concern, it’s hard to make that plea, but I think it's really very important.”

CGM has been a leading voice addressing the loss of scholarly leadership in Afghanistan since the US military withdrawal in the summer of 2021.  Murtazashvili and her team provided emergency asylum assistance to nearly 6,000 Afghan citizens immediately following the fall of Kabul, and the center’s Afghanistan Project was launched that summer to provide an intellectual home for scholars and policy thinkers who were forced to flee the country.  A platform for Afghan scholarship and a hub for Afghanistan policy thinking and research, the initiative has hosted a dozen Afghan scholars here at Pitt in the past three years. 

This spring, Murtazashvili has been awarded the Chancellor’s Distinguished Public Service Award for making Pitt a place of refuge for at-risk scholars from Afghanistan, Iran, Ukraine, and other countries, and the Sheth International Achievement Award in acknowledgment of her significant contributions to international research, education, and engagement. She will be recognized at the Faculty Honors Convocation in April, and awarded a cash prize along with a grant to support her continued research. In addition to her work at CGM, Murtazashvili will teach Comparative Governance at the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs this fall.