This devastating decision threatens to undo the tremendous progress made in education over the past 20 years in the country, despite major challenges. It also makes Afghanistan the only country in the world today to suspend girls’ and women’s access to education.
The country risks a lost generation because educated women are essential to its development, warns the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), for whom Afghanistan – like any other country – cannot progress if half of its population is not allowed to pursue education and participate in public life.
On the International Day of Education on January 24, UNESCO calls for immediate and non-negotiable access to education and a return to school for all girls and young women in Afghanistan.
An event is organized at the United Nations Headquarters, in New York, with the participation of the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Antonio Guterresthe President of the United Nations General Assembly, Csaba Kőrösi, and the Director-General of UNESCO, Audrey Azoulay.
A round table will be devoted to the education of girls and women in Afghanistan.
“The international community has a responsibility to ensure that the rights of Afghan girls and women are restored without delay. The war against women must end,” said Ms. Azoulay, stressing that no country in the world should prevent women and girls from getting an education.
What is the current status of girls’ and women’s education in Afghanistan?
Since September 2021, the return to school of all Afghan girls over the age of 12 has been postponed indefinitely, leaving 1.1 million girls and young women without access to formal education.
Currently, 80% of Afghan girls and young women of school age, or 2.5 million people, are out of school. Nearly 30% of girls in Afghanistan have never entered primary school.
In December 2022, university education for women was also suspended until further notice, affecting more than 100,000 female students attending public and private higher education institutions.
The number of women in higher education has increased almost 20 times between 2001 and 2018 and, before the recent suspension, one in three young women was enrolled in university.
What was the situation of Afghan girls and women before the current suspensions?
Between 2001 and 2018, enrollment at all levels of education in the country increased tenfold, from around 1 million students in 2001 to around 10 million in 2018. The number of girls in primary school increased from almost zero in 2001 to 2.5 million in 2018. As of August 2021, 4 out of 10 students in primary education were girls.
The presence of women in Afghan higher education has increased nearly 20 times, from 5,000 female students in 2001 to more than 100,000 in 2021. The female literacy rate has doubled during the period, from 17% of women able to read and write in 2001 at nearly 30%, all age groups combined.
How does UNESCO support education in Afghanistan?
UNESCO has been heavily involved in supporting the education system in Afghanistan over the past 20 years, notably by running a successful literacy program that has reached more than 600,000 young people and adults, 60% of whom were women.
Since August 2021, UNESCO has reoriented its interventions to ensure the continuity of education through community literacy and skills development courses for more than 25,000 young people and adults, 60% of whom are women and adolescent girls. in 20 provinces.
Her advocacy campaign “Literacy for a Brighter Future” [Alphabétisme pour un avenir plus brillant] Reached over 20 million Afghans to raise awareness about the right to education of youth and adults, especially women and adolescent girls.
UNESCO has also partnered with NGOs on the ground, providing content and funds to deploy a community literacy campaign aimed at 25,000 young people and adults in rural areas, the majority of whom are adolescent girls over the age of 15 years and women.
In order to reach as many girls and women as possible, UNESCO is also working to provide distance learning through Afghan media, including radio stations. More than two-thirds of the population have access to radio, which has the advantage of reaching homes directly.
Thanks to numerous donors, UNESCO supports radio stations in the production of content relating to conflict, humanitarian, health and educational situations of public interest.
This content aims to reach at least six million Afghans and specifically targets women and girls. Direct support is also being given to a station run by women, which by 2023 will produce more than 200 hours per month of educational content dedicated to girls and women, broadcast in at least eight provinces of the country.