The United Nations Girls’ Education Initiative in Afghanistan

Since the Taliban lost power in Afghanistan, education has become a major focus, with a special emphasis on girls’ education. During the years of Taliban rule, fewer than 1 million children in the nation had the opportunity to go to school. At present, about 6 million Afghan children regularly attend school, and 2 million of these are girls. Many organizations have contributed to this achievement, including the United Nations Girls’ Education Initiative (UNGEI) and the Swedish international development cooperation agency (Sida).

Sida and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) have worked closely with the State Ministry of Education in Afghanistan to form a comprehensive strategy for increasing access to education. The ministry has improved teacher training, increased school construction, and expanded textbook production at an unprecedented rate. Still, education capacity remains fairly low.

Although much progress has been achieved through UNGEI, Afghanistan continues to have one of the world’s lowest rates of women’s literacy, about 14 percent. However, the rates of female school attendance have skyrocketed from 3 to 36 percent, and these rates are expected to continue climbing thanks to UNICEF and the Swedish Committee for Afghanistan (SCA), who have helped Sida support schools in some of the country’s most remote areas. Many girls previously could not attend school because they would have had to travel unreasonable distances. With additional rural schools, girls have experienced greater opportunities for education.

Another important task undertaken by UNGEI and Sida involves adult education in villages. These programs allow older men and women who did not have any educational opportunities as youths, to learn how to read and write. This initiative emphasizes the value of education for all people and provides adults with a greater ability to participate in society, including helping their children with homework. In addition, the programs address the need for more teachers, especially female ones because girls can only receive instruction from female teachers.