Gender focus

Gender equality for girls and boys

An IDP Girl in West Afghanistan
UNICEF Afghanistan/Omid

Committed to gender equality

Women and girls in Afghanistan continue to face widespread discrimination and human rights abuses. The country ranks among the least favourable on the Gender Inequality Index and the literacy rate for women is among the lowest in the world. Violence against women and girls is rife and the majority don't go to school.

Yet women make up 50 per cent of the Afghan population. Progress for them means progress for all, and it is critical for the future of the country and the stability of the nation.

Gender equality means that women and men, and girls and boys, enjoy the same rights, resources, opportunities and protections.

Guided by the UNICEF Gender Action Plan, UNICEF in Afghanistan is committed to gender equality at the core of our mission to realize the rights of every child, especially the most disadvantaged, and in our efforts to contribute to the Sustainable Development Goals.

We work to address gender inequality by including a gender focus within our programme across all sectors, which facilitates collaboration and improves impact and results overall. For example, girls’ education helps to prevent child marriage and provides a protective space. The high prevalence of anemia among adolescent girls impacts their ability to survive childbirth, especially when it is coupled with high rates of early marriage. The ability of adolescent girls to safely manage their monthly menstrual cycle in privacy and with dignity is fundamental to their health, psychosocial well-being and mobility.

Two students attend a menstrual hygiene management counselling session at a school in Herat, Afghanistan.
UNICEF Afghanistan/2017/Zaeem
Two students attend a menstrual hygiene management counselling session at a school in Herat, Afghanistan. The introduction of these classes is starting to change beliefs about, and attitudes towards, menstruation.

The role of men and boys in Afghan communities is critical in supporting girls’ access to education. Within families and communities, boys and men need to encourage and stand up for the right of girls to go to school. 

UNICEF Afghanistan works to promote gender equality across programmes in many ways, including by:

•    Widening the participation of young girls in formal and informal schooling;

•    Supporting female teachers and vaccinators;

•    Promoting adolescent health through the provision of iron folic acid in schools to prevent anemia;

•    Providing gender separated sanitation facilities and menstrual hygiene management in schools to encourage girls to enroll and stay in school;

•    Working to prevent child marriage;

•    Supporting quality maternal care;

•    Ensuring equality in access to health and nutrition services.