LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - A photograph of an Afghan woman nursing her baby while writing a university entrance exam has sparked a global campaign to help her further her education in a country where women and girls are regularly discriminated against.
Jahantab Ahmadi attracted widespread attention after an official at Nasir Khusraw University in the central city of Nili posted a picture of her on social media last month.
It showed Ahmadi sitting in the shade of another woman’s chair, cradling her young child while completing a paper.
The image touched the British-based Afghan Youth Association (AYA), which started a GoFundMe campaign to help her and has so far raised nearly 11,000 pounds ($15,548).
The group said it planned to take the money to Ahmadi, who has since been given a place at Kabul University.
“I think it will inspire many people, and hopefully it will motivate other women - show them that if you’re committed, nothing can stop you,” said AYA secretary Shokryah Mohammadi.
“While we help her, hopefully in the future, she will help other women,” she said.
Women and girls in Afghanistan face severe restrictions in many aspects of daily life, including the right to education.
Human Rights Watch, citing government figures, said last year that 85 percent of the 3.5 million Afghan children not in school were girls. While two-thirds of adolescent boys are literate, the figure for girls is little more than half that.
Mohammadi said AYA was in touch with Ahmadi, who has three children including the two-month-old baby pictured with her.
Her husband, who is reported to be illiterate, was widely praised on social media for supporting his wife in a patriarchal society where women are mostly expected to stay at home.
Afghan politician Farkhunda Zahra Naderi, known for championing women’s rights, also pledged to help Ahmadi with her studies, and told the Thomson Reuters Foundation she had paid Ahmadi’s university fees in full for the next four years.
Reporting by Serena Chaudhry, Editing by Robert Carmichael. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights, climate change and resilience. Visit news.trust.org