Afghanistan: Female medical graduates excluded from second consecutive ‘exit exam’

Female medical graduates in Afghanistan were absent from the “exit exam” administered by the Afghanistan Medical Council for the second consecutive time. The exam was held in Kabul on Saturday.

Despite more than 3,300 graduates from both public and private universities taking part in the examination, not a single woman was among their ranks.

This crucial exit exam serves as a gateway for medical graduates to pursue further specialization and eventually practice in specific medical disciplines.

Sahar, a recent medical graduate from Herat University, expressed her distress, highlighting the dire consequences of not passing this final examination.

“I am a graduate of a public university. With the return of the Taliban, this was our final internship, and the exit exam was announced. We were on the brink of taking the exam when it was abruptly canceled for female candidates. Regrettably, the second round proceeded without any female participation. Without the exit document, our prospects of employment are nonexistent. No matter where I submit my MD credentials and CV, job offers remain elusive,” she lamented.

Sahar’s plea echoes the sentiments of many other aspiring female doctors who are urging the Taliban authorities to grant them the opportunity to take the exam they have spent years preparing for.

Parwana, another medical student, said, “We dedicated years to our studies, hoping that the exit exam would be inclusive. Unfortunately, none of us had the chance to take the test, even though we were well-prepared. We hope that authorities will rectify this situation and allow women to take the same oath as their male counterparts. This is the right of all women who have diligently pursued their medical education.”

The absence of women in the healthcare sector is concerning for Afghan society. In a traditionally conservative country like Afghanistan, the presence of female doctors holds particular importance.

Maryam Arwin, a women’s rights activist, criticized the Taliban’s disregard for the impact of their actions on Afghan society.

“The Taliban’s actions demonstrate a blatant disregard for the well-being of Afghan society, especially Afghan women and the healthcare sector. Their prioritization of removing Afghan women and girls from society in the name of religion and sharia is causing immense harm. This serves as a stark reminder that the Afghan people, regardless of gender, are the ultimate victims of such policies. There must be a collective stance against these actions, particularly by the women of Afghanistan, to pave the way for a brighter future,” she stated.

On February 18, the Taliban conducted a medical board exam exclusively for men, with approximately 7,500 male participants. During that time, Taliban officials associated with the medical council promised to organize a separate exam for the 2,700 female candidates after implementing a new mechanism. However, to date, this promise remains unfulfilled.