Albertans Combating Gender Inequality: Canadian Women for Women in Afghanistan

“We are really heartened by the degree to which it’s obvious Canadians care about the fate of Afghans.” - Sarah Keeler

This is the next story in the 5-part series detailing the work of Albertans on combating gender inequality both locally and internationally. Sharing the work of Canadian Women for Women in Afghanistan (CW4WAfghan) is Sarah Keeler, Advocacy and Engagement Manager. CW4WAfghan is a charity and not-for-profit organization whose mission is to "promote and support Canadians taking action, in partnership with Afghan women, toward improving conditions of human rights, ending women’s oppression, and providing opportunities for Afghan women to live their lives with dignity, certainty and purpose.”

This story is graciously accompanied by artwork from five Afghan girls who participate in CW4WAfghan education programs.

Disclaimer: Details and quotes below are taken directly from the interview with Sarah, unless otherwise noted.

About Canadian Women for Women in Afghanistan

Founded in 1998, CW4WAfghan has been focused on “making the right to learn a reality for Afghan women and girls.” This mission has become especially urgent in light of the Taliban’s claim to power in 2021. Thousands of women and girls have been displaced or become exiled in seeking education and other fundamental rights. CW4WAfghan has adapted their programming, specifically looking at digital education initiatives to respond to the growing need. Their Darakht-e Danesh Library, courses, and classroom are available in several languages in order to meet the needs of Afghans who have been restricted from accessing education. “One of the first bans the Taliban introduced was for girls over the age of 12 to access education, so we’re broadly working to make sure that the access to education that is high quality, inclusive, and gender equitable remains intact,” says Sarah.

Image: Artwork by Staish Shahrukhi. The description from Staish: "My painting shows that men and women have equal rights. If rights are given to a man to study and have a better future, they should also be given to women and girls to study and improve."


CW4WAfghan also works to mobilize Canadians to take action through its Advocacy Program which includes campaigns, toolkits and public engagement activities related to the right to education for all. A major goal is to engage funders and the Government of Canada to “increase their commitment to the protection of the right to learn.”  

The Taliban placed a huge number of restrictions on the rights and freedoms of Afghan women and girls, “everything from their right to move freely, participate in public and political life, access education and health care, work outside the home, move in public spaces without a male escort, or even visit a gym, park, or beauty salon. What we’re seeing in Afghanistan now is a situation of almost total gender apartheid.” CW4WAfghan is working with Afghan human rights defenders to seek official recognition of the situation (see campaign here). At the same time, a parallel humanitarian crisis is ongoing as a result of the change in government and an overall weak governance system, spiralling poverty, and the recent earthquakes. The majority of the Afghan population lives with food insecurity, and until very recently, the Canadian government had barred humanitarian organizations from working in Afghanistan due to anti-terrorism laws. It is clear that there is dire need for humanitarian support in Afghanistan.

Image: Artwork by Zahra Hussaini. The description from Zahra: "This painting shows gender equality in that men and women have the same rights."


“There is a dual human rights and humanitarian crisis, and as is often the case in crises like this, the disproportionate impact is felt by women and girls.” - Sarah Keeler

What can Albertans do?

First and foremost, there is a longstanding history of Canadian support of Afghanistan, and CW4WAfghan wants to ensure that this is still valued. There has been so much invested into Afghanistan, in terms of military investment and humanitarian support, and there has been a huge return on investment in the two decades prior to the Taliban’s return, such as “declining maternal mortality rates, massive increases in education enrollment for girls, and the general aspirations of young girls to seek higher education”. We should not turn our backs on Afghan women and girls now. 

Image: Artwork by Qudsia Wafa. The description from Qudsia: "There is a girl who expresses gender equality by writing on her hands."


On a more human level, these are major human rights and humanitarian crises that should matter to everyone. “The fate of Afghan women and girls and the rights that they enjoy are tied up with our own. In a time of pushback against women’s rights globally we are already seeing other extremist movements emboldened by the success of the Taliban in suppressing the rights of women and girls, and the apathy of the international community in responding. As Canadians, we can counter that apathy with solidarity. If we value universal human rights, we must defend them equally. When we are fighting for Afghan women and girls, we are fighting for the rights of women and girls around the world, including Canada.”

Some ways to show support are:

  • Donate to organizations like CW4WAfghan so they can continue their work in supporting Afghan women and girls.
  • Make lots of noise! Keep raising awareness by ensuring this issue is always in the spotlight. CW4WAfghan hosts regular public engagement and advocacy initiatives that Canadians can participate in. Visit to learn more. During the 16 Days of Activism, CW4WAfghan will highlight Afghan women human rights defenders call for the recognition of gender apartheid in Afghanistan.
  • For those who are affiliated with higher education institutions, download CW4WAfghan’s Higher Education Toolkit, which lists a number of ways you can take action  to facilitate access to higher education for women in Afghanistan.

Image: Artwork by Sabira Aghajan


At the heart of support of Afghan women and girls is community. Global feminist solidarity is needed to highlight the struggle for women’s equal rights and the conditions of gender apartheid being experienced in Afghanistan today. “It provides a huge sense of motivation and hope for Afghan women and girls. They are on the frontlines of resistance to the oppression and doing so in the face of global compassion fatigue. They are continuing the struggle despite the lack of attention. They are feeling forgotten by the world, and it is a powerful act of solidarity to speak up for their rights.” CW4WAfghan receives feedback from Afghan women and girls that the support from others around the world is a huge motivation to keep fighting. 

As for Sarah, advocating for Afghan women and girls is at the core of what CW4WAfghan does. “It has been incredibly enriching and gratifying to be able to be part of the work of defending universal human rights. On an individual level, as a feminist, it is also empowering to see a global network of community and support.”

Image: Artwork by Alina and Halima. The description from Alina and Halima: "Mr. Judge, with a male perspective, rules in favour of men."