Depriving Afghan girls of their right to secondary education would be devastating to the country’s economy, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has warned, estimating the country’s losses since the Taliban took over a year ago at at least $500 million.
UN Losing girls’ secondary education costs Afghanistan 2.5% of its annual gross domestic product (GDP), according to a new analysis by the agency.
If the three million Afghan women involved are able to complete their secondary education and participate in the labor market, they will contribute at least $5.4 billion to the Afghan economy.
According to Dr. Mohamed Ayoya, UNICEF Representative in Afghanistan, “The March 23 decision to not allow girls to return to secondary school is shocking and deeply disappointing”.
“This not only violates the basic right of the girl child to education, but also puts her at greater risk of exploitation and abuse, including child trafficking, early and forced marriage,” he said.
Respect the right of girls to education
Ayoya explained that the analysis indicates that unless women’s access to secondary education is respected, Afghanistan will not be able to regain the GDP lost during the transition and reach its true productive potential. “This new analysis clearly exposes the dire economic impact of this decision on the country’s GDP,” he said.
Before the Taliban came to power on August 15 last year, Afghanistan was struggling with more than 4.2 million children, 60 percent of whom were girls.
Both boys and girls don’t go to school and the cost is high. But because of the link between their educational status and their future destiny, the cost of girl children is much higher. According to UNICEF, as their education level rises, more women delay marriage and childbearing, participate in work life and make personal choices about their future, according to UNICEF.
Education is the foundation of development
Note that the UNICEF estimates do not take into account the non-financial impacts of denying girls access to education, such as future shortages of female teachers, doctors and nurses, reduced attendance of girls in primary schools and increased health costs associated with adolescence. Pregnancy.
The estimates also do not take into account the wider benefits of education, including overall educational attainment, reduced child marriage and reduced child mortality.
“UNICEF wants every girl and boy in Afghanistan to be in school,” said Dr. Ayoya. “We will continue to advocate relentlessly until this goal is achieved. Education is not only a right for every child, it is the foundation of Afghanistan’s future development.
The consequences go beyond the economic impact
In addition to girls not being able to return to secondary schools, child malnutrition is on the rise. In June 2022, 57,000 children in Afghanistan were treated for severe malnutrition, a 90% increase compared to the same period last year, according to UNICEF.
In June 2021, 30,000 children were treated for severe malnutrition in the country. Now children are forced to work to support their families instead of going to school.
More broadly, UNICEF believes Kabul stands at a pivotal moment for an entire generation of children.
Dr. Ayoya concludes in this regard: “We want to say to the people of Afghanistan that we would be helpless without their trust and support. We thank our donors and partners for their generosity, but ask that they continue their life-saving support for children – especially as winter approaches.”
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