One year since schools were closed to secondary school-age girls in Afghanistan, the IRC warns that efforts to rebuild the country will fail if girls are left to languish.

This September marks yet another year that girls across the country will not be enrolling in secondary school or university, but this time the reason is not due to COVID-19 restrictions. With 80% of girls out of school while economic crisis continues to grip the country, the IRC is warning the country could see an increase in child marriage and exploitation. Meanwhile, if girls continue to be barred from education, Afghanistan risks a lost generation.

Vicki Aken, IRC Afghanistan Director, said,

“As we reach a full year since school doors were closed to teenage girls in Afghanistan, the cost for the country’s development and the wellbeing of millions of women and girls is clear. Without girls in school, there will be no women doctors, teachers or civil servants, and the systems that are already struggling to support the population will be pushed even further to the brink.

“Skilled women workers are the backbone of service delivery, including aid delivery, especially as oftentimes women in the community cannot even visit a male doctor to receive basic healthcare services. A lack of educated women will mean that Afghanistan faces major problems in providing basic services to the most vulnerable. 

“It is high time that the de facto authorities reopen school doors to girls; the economic collapse has already destabilised the country and the population is in dire need of a future generation of workers who can turn things around. The international community should ensure that funding, including from the World Bank, is released to support NGOs like the IRC to expand the education programmes that are allowed to continue for girls and to support a formal system for millions of children. We cannot afford to leave Afghan girls behind.”

The IRC runs Community-Based Education (CBE) programming across 5 provinces, which provides children up to grade 6, more than half of whom are girls, with non-formal learning while they are unable to access formal education. Many of the children travel to CBE classes up to six times per week, with dreams of becoming doctors, engineers or teachers themselves. 

The IRC began work in Afghanistan in 1988, and now works with thousands of villages across twelve 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, 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