Kabul: Afghanistan’s first women-only university’s motto, Balay, ma maithwanim, is scrawled in bubblegum pink on a chocolate-brown gate. Inside, the motto’s meaning – “Yes we can” – immediately becomes evident.

In the white-washed halls, echoing classrooms and verdant lawns of the university is evident in the spirit of young, determined women focusing on “works by women for women.”

Founder of Morra University Dr. Aziz: Photo by News Lens Pakistan.
Founder of Morra University Dr. Aziz: Photo by News Lens Pakistan.

“My mother died of a minor disease because she refused to go see a male doctor,” says Dr Azizullah Amir, the founder of the university who named it Morra – mother in Pashto.

“Her dilemma compelled me to consider education for the people, particularly women, who can serve the nation. Only women professionals can deal with issues faced by women and play a role in development of the country.”

The Morra Educational Complex’ website says it is Afghanistan’s “most unique complex” .

An all-women school like this would not have been possible under the decades of war and conflict in the country that setback the lot of women and women rights.

Morra Educational Complex: Photo by News lens Pakistan.
Morra Educational Complex: Photo by News lens Pakistan.

The Afghan Ministry of Education estimates 39 per cent of 8.4 million students currently enrolled in primary and secondary schools are girls.

“However, around 3.3 million children (about 32 per cent of the school-age population), the majority of which are girls, remain out of school,” according to the Brookings Institute.

“The share of the population over 25 years that has completed any level of formal education is less than seven per cent for men and just three per cent for women.”

In keeping with a vision of its founder informed by his mother’s illness, the Morra Educational Complex focuses on medical and higher education for women.

Spread over a vast hilly terrain in the quiet suburbs of Kabul, the Complex also houses a kindergarten and high school for girls. Established in 2015, the institute was inaugurated in May 2016 by Rula Ghani, the First Lady of Afghanistan.

In her inauguration address Rula Ghani lauded the efforts of individuals and groups at home and abroad for promotion of women and Afghan society.

“Religion calls upon us to educate our children, both girls and boys, so it is our duty to send our daughters to education institutes,” she said.

While women and female education made significant strides under the rule of former Afghan president Hamid Karzai, he was also criticized by women rights groups for endorsing a “code of conduct”  in 2012 issued by the country’s Ulema Council. 

Among its rules are some that say “women should not travel without a male guardian and should not mingle with strange men in places such as schools, markets and offices.”

“Women are half of our population and we need them to equally progress with men,” Karzai told News Lens Pakistan.”

He said 35 per cent of women had secured seats in higher education institutions, 27 per cent in politics and 22 per cent in civil services.

Afghan Minister for Higher Education Farida Momand said the number of girls appearing in higher education admission tests had increased.

“We are providing resources for better education and it would surely result in giving us a young lot of professional and learned ladies soon,” Momand told News Lens Pakistan.

Kabul-based offices, professional centres, non-governmental organizations and business centres now have professional Afghan women working in different capacities, she said.

Kabul University, the country’s chief tertiary education institute, has 76,000 students including 33,000 female students, according to M. Wahid Gharwal, Professor and Dean of Journalism Faculty at Kabul University.

However education remains elusive for millions of women for want to access and lack of education institutions.

Hamid Zazai, a rights activist who works for Mediothek, an Afghan-German organization working on peace and democracy, said the government must focus on provision of quality education and involvement of women in education sector.

“Several Afghan investors who returned after 2001 have invested in education but private education remains out of the reach of poor and needy, whereas government institutions are in still in a nascent stage of development.”

Bashir Baran, a former student of the computer science department at Kabul’s Polytechnic University, said it would take time to have a well-established education system for men and women.

Education institutes currently lack trained staff, laboratories, and books, Baran said.

Sadaf Rehmani, who teaches business administration at the Morra Educational Complex, told News Lens Pakistan, is hopeful the all-women complex will appeal to families otherwise reluctant to send their daughters to a co-educational university.

“My parents would not let me study at a co-ed institute. Now the inauguration of a women university will surely attract girls from families following conservative norms”.


  1. Endowed with genre of developmental journalism the which we direly lacking, appreciate it Ms. Sana for your focused and developmental story featuring Women education in Afghanistan.


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