Highlights:

  • A Senior UN official has affirmed that the Taliban informed that they will declare “very soon”
  • During the Taliban’s earlier rule of Afghanistan from 1996-2001, they refused girls and women’s right to education
  • Omar Abdi pushed the Taliban in every meeting “to let girls resume their learning”

A senior UN official has affirmed that the Taliban informed them that they will declare “very soon” that all Afghan girls will be allowed to attend secondary schools. Omar Abdi, UNICEF Deputy Executive Director, who visited Kabul last week, noted that five of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces namely Balkh, Jawzjan, and Samangan in the northwest, Kunduz in the northeast and Uruzgan in the southwest are allowing girls to attend secondary school.

He added that the Taliban’s education minister informed him that they are working on “a framework” to allow every girl to continue their schooling beyond the sixth grade, which should be published “between a month or two”. He stressed, “As I speak to you today, millions of girls of secondary school age are missing out on education for the 27th consecutive day.” “We are urging them not to wait. Any day that we wait—it’s a day lost for those girls that are out of school.”

During the Taliban’s earlier rule of Afghanistan from 1996-2001, they refused girls’ and women’s right to education and prohibited them from working and public life. Since their takeover of Kabul on Aug 15, the group has been under international pressure to assure women’s rights to education and work.

Omar Abdi pushed the Taliban in every meeting “to let girls resume their learning,” describing it as “critical for the girls themselves and for the country as a whole.” He added when the Taliban were ousted from power in 2001 by a US-led coalition for harboring Osama bin Laden who masterminded the 9/11 attacks on the United States, only one million Afghan children were in schools at all levels.

He continued, in the last 20 years, the figure increased to around 10 million children at all levels, involving 4 million girls. In the past decade, the number of schools tripled from 6,000 to 18,000. “Education gains of the past two decades must be strengthened and not rolled back.” However, the deputy chief of the United Nations Children’s Fund stressed that despite this progress, 4.2 million Afghan children are out of school including 2.6 million girls.

Abdi stated, “The authorities that I’ve met said that when they put in place the framework that they are working on, it will convince more parents to send their girls to school” explaining it will address concerns in conservative societies about separating girls and boys and female teachers.

The UNICEF deputy chief remarked that he also visited a children’s hospital “and was shocked to see how packed it was with malnourished children, some of the babies”. Abdi emphasized that the health system and social services are on the verge of collapse, medical supplies are running dangerously low, outbreaks of measles and watery diarrhea are increasing, and polio and COVID-19 remain serious concerns.

He recalled, “Even before the Taliban takeover, at least 10 million children across the country were in need of humanitarian assistance to survive and at least one million of these children are at the risk of dying due to severe acute malnutrition if they are not treated immediately.”

Meanwhile, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres asked the world to prevent the Afghan economy from collapsing and support the Afghan people, an appeal echoed by Abdi who narrated “the situation is critical and it will not only get worse”.

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