New York, NY, September 14, 2021 — While instability continues to impact the lives and livelihoods of Afghanistan's population, the IRC calls for world leaders to apply financial and diplomatic leverage to ensure Afghan girls can continue their education as the new government confirms that women and girls will be allowed to continue their studies.
Children and their families in Afghanistan are facing multiple, urgent threats to their lives, livelihoods and wellbeing. While the international community strives to meet basic needs, education must be included as a priority. Science shows that experiences with severe adversity can disrupt children's healthy brain development, with short and long-term impacts on their physical and mental health, behavior and ability to learn. Providing education during crisis can provide a buffer against these negative impacts. Education as part of humanitarian response also protects children against violence, exploitation and abuse that they become more vulnerable to during crisis, including child marriage, child labour and recruitment into armed groups; negative coping mechanisms that are already increasing as a result of the economic downturn caused by COVID-19 and widespread drought.
As part of its Back To School campaign, the IRC has today released a short film that highlights the concerns of teenage girls in Afghanistan that they will be unable to return to school and relive the youth of their mothers, many of whom are illiterate as a result of being barred from receiving an education. Speaking to the IRC in July, seven Afghan girls spoke of their fears for the future and the importance of schooling in order to pursue their ambitions of helping rebuild Afghanistan, which is in the throes of a humanitarian crisis. 18.4 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance, 75% of whom are women and children.
An anonymous 14 year old girl living in Kabul, said,
"Thinking about the future and all of our concerns makes me really worried and angry. And sometimes I cry out and I insist with my mom that I will no longer want to go to school. But my mom motivates and encourages me to go to school."
Elinor Raikes, IRC Vice President and Head of Programme Delivery, said,
"As the world continues to watch the situation in Afghanistan unfold, deep uncertainty remains around whether girls will be able to continue their education to reach their fullest potential. As the humanitarian crisis continues to reach new heights, education should remain at the forefront of response efforts, whether in schools or in homes, not only to support the millions of children in need of literacy and numeracy skills, but to provide a safe space where children can receive the social and emotional support required during a time like this. We know from decades of experience in Afghanistan and other crisis contexts the world over that when children lose out on education, we see rises in child marriage, child labour, exploitation and abuse - robbing a generation of their childhoods and jeopardising their chances of self-sufficiency as adults.
"Over the past 20 years, gains in education have empowered millions of girls in Afghanistan, supplying them with necessary skills and confidence, and allowing more and more women to enter the workforce. At the same time, going to school has never been more dangerous for Afghan girls: between 2018 and mid-2021, over 200 attacks on school killed or injured more than 600 students and teachers. Around 40 of these attacks, which included airstrikes and the use of explosives took place during the first half of this year. The IRC is dedicated to ensuring girls can secure an education in Afghanistan and has run successful community-based education in Afghanistan, reaching more than half a million children--half of whom are girls--in the academic year of 2019-2020.
"We urge the international community to shift its thinking and recognize education as an emergency service. At the IRC, we remain committed to providing crisis-affected children with high-quality education services that combine foundational academic skills with social-emotional learning and psychosocial support to address the full range of support needed. To do this, adequate funding and commitments focused on ensuring all children affected by conflict, including girls, have access to education are urgently needed. We refuse to leave any girl behind and urge the international community to join us in doing the same."
*The IRC began work in Afghanistan in 1988, and now works with thousands of villages across nine provinces, with Afghans making up more than 99% of IRC staff in the country. As Afghanistan struggles to recover from ongoing conflict and natural disasters, the IRC: works with local communities to identify, plan and manage their own development projects, provides safe learning spaces in rural areas, establishes community based education, cash distribution provides uprooted families with tents, clean water, sanitation and other basic necessities, and helps people find livelihood opportunities as well as extensive resilience programming. *
To donate to the IRC's emergency response in Afghanistan, please click here.