Afghanistan: UNICEF Deputy Executive Director Omar Abdi's remarks at UN Press Briefing

30 January 2023

NEW YORK, 30 January 2023 - "In addition to [requesting the repeal of] the ban [on female humanitarian workers at national and international NGOs from working across Afghanistan] we have requested and advocated for the full inclusion of girls and women in public life, and especially in public secondary education and tertiary education. 

"The numbers are alarming. More than 1 million girls who should have been in secondary schools have lost out on learning for 3 years now -- first, due to COVID and then, since September 2021, due to the ban on attending secondary school. With the recent announcement, on 20th December, that bars women from university and educational centres, the hopes of Afghan girls and women to learn and work have, again, been crushed. We are very concerned about girls’ and women’s development, and particularly their mental health.  

"In 2023, if secondary school education remains closed, an estimated 215,000 girls who attended Grade 6 last year will, once again, be denied their right to learn. 

"As bleak as it is, the people of Afghanistan haven’t given up. And so, we must not too.

"There are some positive signs. Since the ban preventing girls from attending secondary school, an estimated 200,000 girls continue to attend secondary schools in around 12 provinces, and female secondary school teachers continue to receive their salaries from the de facto authority.  The officials we met in Kabul last week re-affirmed that they are not against girls learning in secondary schools, and again promised to re-open schools once the guidelines are approved by their leader.

"In addition, over the last year, the number of Community Based Education classes taking place in private homes/public places has doubled from 10,000 to 20,000 classes. These serve about 600,000 children, of whom 55 per cent are girls.  They reach children who’ve never been to school, because of the access we have now to many parts of the country that were inaccessible before due to the conflict.

"These positive signs are the result of both commitment from the de facto authorities and pressure from local communities to keep schools and community-based classes open. 

"As long as communities continue to demand education, we must continue to support both public and other forms of education – Community Based Education classes, catch-up classes, vocational training, Without education, there is little hope for a better future for the girls and women of Afghanistan. 

"Thank you."

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UNICEF works in some of the world’s toughest places, to reach the world’s most disadvantaged children. Across more than 190 countries and territories, we work for every child, everywhere, to build a better world for everyone. 

UNICEF’s Regional Office for South Asia (ROSA) works with UNICEF Country Offices in Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka to help to save children’s lives, defend their rights, and help them fulfil their potential. For more information about UNICEF’s work for children in South Asia, visit www.unicef.org/rosa and follow UNICEF ROSA on Twitter and Facebook