In a significant departure from its restrictive attitude towards female education in the 1990s, Taliban leaders are at least passively okay with British-based charity Mercy Corps running vocational colleges for young Afghani women. The approximately $8 million program includes English and computer classes, and β€” after a lengthy internal debate amongst Taliban honchos β€” is expanding throughout the Helmand province.

The Telegraph, though quick to temper our excitement about the implications of this attitudinal shift, reports that roughly 1,000 girls over the age of 15 are already participating in the program, and there are many more on the waiting list. David Haines, Mercy Corps Afghan director, explains that, while he doesn't see the Taliban's permitting these programs as necessarily a softening of its stance on educating women, "it [is] a more politically aware stance about their previous shortcomings on education."

The Taliban's stance on girls' schooling remains uncertain, with attacks on girls schools such as a wave of supposed mass poisonings serving as proof that the Taliban still oppose educating women (the Taliban have denied that it took part in any such attacks). Since the Taliban still maintain control over certain parts of Afghanistan, their cooperation (or even passive acceptance) of programs like Mercy Corps' is seen as key to the nation's future hopes for gender equality as NATO troops leave the country.

Afghan girls given English and computer lessons [Telegraph]