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Her Excellency Shinkai Karokhail, Ambassador of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to Canada, Speech at the annual garden reception hosted by the University Women Helping Afghan Women on June 13, 2017


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Honorable Marie-Claude Bibeau, Minister of International Development, Honorable Maryam Monsef, Minister of Status of Women, Ms. Hally Siddons, distinguished guests; it is an honour to be among you all on this beautiful evening not warm enough as it was yesterday.

Good evening,

It gives me immense pleasure to share my thoughts and experiences with you. I highly appreciate the importance you have given to the education of Afghan students, particularly girls. Your efforts in diverting the Government of Canada’s attention to the plight of Afghan women are commendable. I am with you in this great initiative.

After starting my job as the Ambassador of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan in Canada in November last year, I have had the opportunity to meet many high-profile Canadian government officials and stress on the importance of paying close attention to the education of Afghan girls throughout Afghanistan, especially in provinces which are highly vulnerable to conflicts, terrorism and other peace-threatening activities.

As we all know, when we have educated people from both women and men, we all benefit, the society benefits and we see real development taking place at the grass roots level. Therefore, education of the Afghan women and girls could be considered vital for the reconstruction, development, peace, and prosperity of Afghanistan. When we have educated women, we will have healthy mothers who can look after their children in a healthier way and raise more productive kids.

When it comes to education, Afghanistan has come a long way. According to our Central Statistics Office, Afghanistan has 15,645 public schools, where 9.2 students are enrolled in primary and secondary education. Of this figure, about 3.6 million or 40% comprise girls. In addition, we have more than 19% of women who study in public and private universities. Unfortunately, as I mentioned before, ongoing conflicts have resulted in destruction of schools in insecure provinces and have caused a remarkable decrease in student enrolment. Despite all this, it is encouraging to see that many women and girls are showing interest, and are eager to get education.

For example, in western Afghanistan in Herat province, girls outnumbered boys by 10% in the university entrance exam. One of the reasons for this increase has been the perception about obtaining advanced education outside Afghanistan and the role of technology which has greatly changed people’s mindsets about girls’ education. As a result, we see many women and girls in relatively secure urban and rural areas of Afghanistan enroll in schools and universities, and work outside their homes.

However, we should remember that prior to 2002; we had a different situation, where our education sector was extremely terrible. Due to civil war and the Taliban regime in the 90s decades, more than half of our schools were destroyed and teachers killed. According to the UN estimates, less than one million students mostly boys were enrolled in schools during the Taliban regime. Not only this, women were not allowed to obtain education or work, but instead they were forced to remain in their homes.
So you may be thinking what is the current situation of girls’ education in Afghanistan after the passage of 16 years? The short answer is that it is much better now compared to what it was before, but it is not satisfactory. Afghanistan needs more resources at national and international levels to increase female literacy rates at basic, intermediate and advanced levels.

Although the government with the support of international community has invested in girls’ education, the female enrollment rate is only 40% compared to boys as I previously mentioned. Apart from vulnerability of some provinces to terrorist attacks and frequent conflicts, early marriages, forced closure or burning of schools and lack of female teachers have been several of the key reasons for the increase in female dropouts. According to our Ministry of Education, more than 1,000 schools have been destroyed throughout Afghanistan recently. In order for terrorists to succeed and spread more terror, they prevent Afghan girls and boys from access to education. However, we will not let the terrorists and extremists to advance their vicious agenda. Our young generation is more aware than before and they know the value of education. Therefore, it is one of our important duties to safeguard our schools and provide more opportunities to Afghan girls and boys to achieve their educational dreams.

Dear Friends,
What makes me worry most is the chronic impact of insecurity on girls and women’s education throughout Afghanistan, specifically in provinces which receive the brunt of the ongoing fight against terrorism and extremism. Can you believe, less than 14% of women in rural areas are literate, and if we continue to ignore them, the next generation of girls will be lost, which will trigger so many other issues for the society, including lack of access to female nurses and doctors as one of the problems.
When we have educated mothers, it has a direct effect on child and mother mortality rates. These rates decrease by almost half because educated mothers know how to better take care of their children and focus more on their education. Other impacts include financial independence of women, voicing concerns against discrimination, harassment, domestic violence, and taking part in political processes of the country. Therefore, in my view, investing on girls’ education is in fact an investment on Afghanistan's economic development and stability.

Dear Friends,
Although the government, including our international partners have invested a lot in education sector, most of our government’s spending has gone to fighting terrorism and extremis in Afghanistan. However, our government lack adequate financial resources to fund educational projects. In all my meetings with the Canadian officials and decision makers, I have emphasized on the importance of funding and implementing educational programs across Afghanistan, especially in insecure provinces.
Let me repeat this, if we do not pay more attention to girls’ education, we will deliver a generation of uneducated Afghan women, which may be detrimental to development and stability of the country. I know insecurity might be a challenge for international organizations to implement educational projects, but there is always a localized solution available. In case of Afghanistan, it might be best to focus on home-based schooling, community-based education, and vocational training in direct partnership with local non-governmental organizations (NGOs) at the grassroots levels because (1) these local NGOs or community-based organizations are fully aware of the local customs, (2) they know the ground realities, (3) they are more cost-effective compared to international organizations, and (4) they can have a positive effect on strengthening local capacities and creating jobs.

Dear Friends,
Here, I would like to assure you that your efforts and assistance for girls’ education in Afghanistan is very vital now for our country. My team and I on behalf of the government of Afghanistan consider you critical and genuine partner to support girls’ education in our country. Your efforts in raising funds for girls’ education would never go unnoticed and will always be welcomed and appreciated by the Afghan government and its people. As I said before, educating a girl does not only serve her personal interest as an individual but also helps a family, a society, and a nation in the end.

I hope we can keep in touch and meet often to come up with great ideas and initiatives to further support education of girls from primary to advanced levels. For instance, you can provide sponsorship or raise funds to support tuition fees and cost of living for at least 7 girls from the insecure provinces to get education in Kabul. There is an urgent need for educated women and local expertise in the health and education sectors in these provinces. Your sponsorships will help the remote communities to be served by experts educated by your funds. My team and I will be pleased to provide you with any kind of support in the identification and selection of the most eligible girls to benefit from your sponsorships.

I take this opportunity to once gain thank Ms. Hally Siddons and her team for giving me a chance to speak to you directly and share with you the viewpoints of my government. I look forward to your continuous support for a more educated Afghanistan.
Thank you.



 

 
     
   
 
 
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