This project studies gender representation in Afghanistan’s school textbooks and novels between 2001 to 2021. The case of women in Afghanistan, not surprisingly, is an unpleasant but interesting one when it comes to women’s emancipation, gender equality, social and political inclusion. In the last two centuries, Afghanistan has gone through at least six regime changes with each leaving radical impacts on the socio-economic development of the country. To a large extent, the political identities of these regimes crystallized around their attitudes towards gender issues. All of them pursued radically different policies in that field justified in terms of different concepts of Islam, tradition or modernity. All of them regularly reversed the measures taken by their respective predecessors. However, all of them were eventually overthrown by political rivals. Thus, the definition of socially acceptable, politically enforceable and internationally recognized gender policies in Afghanistan, is still an unfinished project. Some of those regimes supported gender equality, enabling women to make progresses. But the developments were reversed by the next regime changes. Thus, the case of women’s progress in Afghanistan has been circular, rather than linear progress.
A close analysis of gender discourses can further our understanding of the rise and fall of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan (2001-2021). The political elites of that regime apparently pursued a moderate policy based on compromise and on balancing between competing political camps as well as between local and international constituencies. This project will attempt to understand to what extent the republican system imbedded gender equality, and how the male and female, were represented in school textbooks. While production of textbooks has to follow certain rules and are bound to certain limits, the project also studies novels to examine the views of writers, ordinary people, and the society in general towards women.