Education, Education Cannot Wait. Future of Education is here, Gender, Human Rights, Religion

Stand Up and Speak Out to End Gender Apartheid in Afghanistan

Statement by The Rt. Hon. Gordon Brown, UN Special Envoy for Global Education and Chair of ECW’s High-Level Steering Group, Marking the 1,000 Day Ban on Girls’ Secondary Education in Afghanistan

Jun 14 2024 - For 1,000 days girls in Afghanistan have been banned from secondary school education. We must now stand up and speak out together for the girls and women of Afghanistan with a clarion call to the de facto authorities and world leaders to end the ban on girls’ secondary education in Afghanistan.

The cost of inaction is unimaginable. As we speak, 8 out of 10 school-aged girls and young women are out of school in Afghanistan, and 1.5 million girls are impacted by the ban on secondary education.

Every day, more and more out-of-school girls are being forced into marriage for lack of any other future prospects. In fact, the ban on Afghan girls’ education after grade six is correlated with a 25% increase in the rate of child marriage, according to a new UN Women report. The ban is also associated with an increase of the risk of maternal mortality by at least 50%. Mental health distress and depression is also soaring, and so are suicide attempts.

In all, 4.2 million children are out of school. The ban on female teachers, severe restrictions to aid groups, a return to religious teaching and other factors aren’t just hurting the girls of Afghanistan. Human Rights Watch found a significant decline in the quality of boys’ education across 8 of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces.

For 1,000 days Afghan girls have lived under a veil of oppression and gender apartheid. For 1,000 days, they have seen their human rights ripped from their hands. Imagine the long-term impact this will have on the people of Afghanistan. Imagine the long-term impacts this will have on our global community.

As we look to end hunger and poverty in Afghanistan and beyond, the impact of investments in education is readily apparent. For each extra year of schooling there is a 10% increase in hourly earnings. It can lift-up entire economies. For each year of additional schooling, a nation can expect up to 18% return in GDP.

This is also our investment in peace, not just in Afghanistan, but for nations everywhere. Each year of education reduces the risk of conflict by 20%, according to the World Bank. And it’s our investment in girls and women everywhere. Increases in schooling for women can cut children mortality under five by as much as half, and for every $1 we spend on girls’ education we generate $2.80 in return.

For 1,000 days, we have seen the UN Charter, the Universal Declaration on Human Rights and the Convention on the Rights of the Child cast aside in blatant violation of international law and our shared humanity. We refuse to give up on the girls and boys of Afghanistan.

The UN system, international non-profits and other key strategic partners are working quickly to retool education investments to focus on community-based education and localized action to deliver on the humanitarian imperative. Without this support, an entire generation of Afghan girls face increased risks of child marriage, sexual violence and other grave violations of their human rights.

In 2023, Education Cannot Wait investments in Afghanistan reached nearly 200,000 children – girls and boys – through community-based education programmes. We must scale up this support with increased funding and increased political pressure to deliver the inherent human right of a quality education to every girl and every boy in Afghanistan.

As the world mourns this inhumane and immoral 1,000-day ban on girls’ education, global leaders, advocates, influencers and courageous Afghan girls have stepped up to share their call for an end to gender apartheid in Afghanistan through Education Cannot Wait’s ground-breaking #AfghanGirlsVoices Campaign.

As one girl put it: “I am overwhelmed by a profound sense of sorrow and injustice, knowing that we, as women, are denied the fundamental right to education.” The world must unite behind the girls of Afghanistan. Share #AfghanGirlsVoices today.


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