The right to education is a human right - nevertheless it is violated worldwide. UNESCO is dedicating the International Education Day 2023 (24 January) to Afghan girls and women.
Currently, 80% (2.5 million) of Afghan girls and young women of school age do not attend school because they are de facto denied access to secondary schools and universities by the authorities. Since August 2021, UNESCO has adapted its interventions to support continuity of education in difficult circumstances.
"No country in the world should exclude women and girls from access to education. Education is a universal human right that must be respected. The international community has a responsibility to ensure that the rights of Afghan girls and women are restored without delay. The war against women must stop," said UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay.
UNESCO works on alternative solutions
A UNESCO campaign reached over 20 million Afghans to raise public awareness of the right to education for youth and adults, especially adolescent girls and women. UNESCO also worked with NGOs on the ground to provide content and resources for a community-based literacy campaign that reached 25,000 youth and adults in rural areas, including mostly girls over 15 and women. UNESCO also supports Afghan broadcasters through media channels, particularly radio stations, to produce conflict-sensitive, humanitarian, health and education-related content of public interest, with the aim of reaching at least six million Afghans, with a focus on women and girls.
Every day without education hinders the progress already made
The decisions made by the authorities in Afghanistan threaten to undo the development gains the country has made over the past 20 years. Between 2001 and 2021, with the support of the international community, including UNESCO, the number of students at all levels of education in Afghanistan increased tenfold from around one million to around ten million.
During this period, the number of girls in primary school increased from almost zero to 2.5 million. Women's participation in Afghan higher education has also increased almost twenty-fold, from 5,000 students* to over 100,000. The literacy rate for women has almost doubled, from 17% of women who could read and write in 2001 to almost 30% for all age groups combined.
About International Education Day 2023
To mark International Education Day 2023, UNESCO will also release a global report, the SDG4 Scorecard 2023, showing how fast countries are progressing towards achieving their national benchmarks for Sustainable Development Goal 4 (quality education). So far, three out of four countries have submitted benchmarks to be achieved by 2030 for at least one of the SDG4 key indicators. Work on the benchmarks reveals an acute lack of data on education. Half of the countries have no data on learning progress or the percentage of trained teachers in primary schools; a third of the countries have no data on school completion or school dropout rates.