“The low status of women and girls in our society is a major problem. Parents are ready to educate their sons but not their daughters. There are as many boys as girls in Nepal, but fewer girls are able to go to school. Being a girl, they have many household chores to do, and they are compelled to discontinue their education. We feel sad about this discrimination by our parents. The lack of adequate facilities in schools also forces us to drop out from studies … Sexual abuse and harassment on the way to and from school, compel us to drop out of school …”
- Reshmi Chowdhary, 16, Biratnagar Child Club; remarks at the Opening Session, ‘Equity, Gender and Quality in Education’ Asia-Pacific Technical Meeting of UNGEI Global Advisory Committee, June 2008
Afghanistan is one of the five South Asian countries with a formal partnership with the United Nations Girls’ Education Initiative (UNGEI), which has done much to influence the Afghan governments’ decisions in policies towards women in education but much is still to be done.
Comparing female adult literacy to male adult literacy, Afghanistan stands at 29 percent, which is really low next to other developing countries such as Bangladesh (82 percent) and India (71 percent).
Statistics shows that due to a congruence of influences and situations, education for women and girls are inevitably affected in the face of natural or manmade disasters such as war and earthquakes. The recent earthquake in Pakistan is one such example.
Such disasters have a way of wiping out schools, and changing lives drastically. Due to the pressing economic and practical needs of their families and communities, women and girls are forced to take on income-generating roles and forego the chance of further education, whichever stage of education they were at. Dangers from natural disasters may also hinder women, girls and educators from travelling to school. Access to schools is further cut off for women and girls who live in remote, mountainous regions, reducing their mobility tremendously.
Tackling with the issue of the gender difference in education is one thing and providing women and girls with the equity of gender is another.
In partnership with UNICEF, a coalition of partners was formed to influence the Afgahnistan government’s policies towards education for women and girls.
Bringing education to young Afghan girls can be challenging yet lots of fun too. A simple yet enjoyable approach that UNGEI took to bring education to young girls is through sports.
Gender restriction on girls’ physical movements has made it difficult for young girls to partake in any form of healthy physical exercises in Afghanistan. In 2009, UNICEF responded to an appeal by a group of girls to play ball sports such as basketball and volleyball in their schools. With the support of various agencies, Girls’ Sports Forum (GSF) was set up.
Sports for these girls mean another form of education and a chance where they can unleash their potential as girls, a chance to allow them play, and a chance to bring them together, enjoying something together.
Through agencies such as UNGEI, women and girls in Afghanistan not only have a chance in obtaining an education but to learn how to play and have fun, through various sports as well, making life a whole lot more meaningful.