Afghan women and girls take center stage on International Education Day    UN News

Afghan women and girls take center stage on International Education Day UN News

Education is a universal human right, a public good and a collective responsibility; However, the de facto authorities in Afghanistan, in power since August 2021, banned girls from attending secondary school in September of the same year, leaving 1.1 million girls over the age of 12 without access to formal education.

Later, in December 2022, the Taliban suspended university education for women, affecting more than 100,000 young women attending state and private higher education institutions. The outrage also meant an enormous one step back for the countrywhere the number of women in higher education had increased almost twenty-fold between 2001 and 2018. Before the suspension, one in three young people was enrolled in universities.

Nowadays, 80% of Afghan girls and young women of school age (2.5 million) do not go to school and nearly 30% of girls have never had primary education.

In the face of this blatant abuse of a fundamental guarantee, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) will dedicate this year’s International Education Day – observed every year on January 24 – to Afghan girls and women.

The war on women must end

The day’s commemoration will be held at the UN Headquarters in New York with an event attended by Secretary-General António Guterres and UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay, who has tirelessly affirmed that education is a universal human right that must be respected.

“No country in the world should prevent women and girls from getting an education,” Azoulay urged the world to act: “The international community has a responsibility ensure that the rights of Afghan girls and women are restored without delay. The war on women must end.

Afghan girls attend classes at a UNICEF-supported school in Helmand province, Afghanistan.  (file photo)

The work of UNESCO

To support Afghan girls and young women in education since the Taliban put UNESCO in power adjust their interventions to give continuity to the formation of this group under such difficult circumstances.

First, the UN agency launched a campaign that reached more than 20 million Afghans and increased the number of people public awareness of the right to education young people and adults, especially adolescent girls and women.

In addition, UNESCO has partnered with local NGOs and provided content and funding for the launch of a literacy homework is aimed at 25,000 young people and adults in rural areas, mainly young people over the age of 15 and women.

In order to reach as many girls and women as possible, the organization is also committed to providing care Distance learning through the Afghan media, particularly radio stations. Radio is accessible to more than two-thirds of the population and has the advantage of being directly available in homes.

UNESCO supports broadcasters in the production of Conflict-sensitive public interest content covering humanitarian, health and educational issues, aiming to reach at least six million Afghans, with a particular focus on women and girls. This includes direct support for a women-run channel that produces more than 200 hours a month of educational content for girls and women and will be broadcast this year in at least eight provinces across the country.

Nothing replaces the classroom

Despite these measures, classrooms are irreplaceable as they place of social integration, where you learn to live together and take part in an educational process. For this reason, UNESCO and its Member States will continue to work to ensure that the right to education of Afghan girls and women is a priority on the international agenda.

The organization insisted that the decisions of the de facto authorities in Afghanistan are threatening undermining the country’s development gains over the past 20 yearsRecalling that between 2001 and 2021, with the support of the international community, including UNESCO, Afghanistan increased enrollment tenfold at all levels of education, from one million to ten million students.

During that time, the number of girls attending primary school rose from almost zero to 2.5 million. Female participation in Afghan higher education has also increased almost twenty-fold, from 5,000 students to over 100,000. Female literacy rates have nearly doubled, from 17% of women literate in 2001 to nearly 30% for all ages combined in 2021.