Young women participate in a literacy class in Kabul as part of the Women’s Learning Center project with the Afghan Institute of Learning in 2002.

Girls' education must remain a priority

As the world watched the news unfolding from Afghanistan over the last week, we at Zonta International had one thing on our minds—the rights of women and girls.

Zonta International has fought for gender equality for more than a century, and much of our efforts have focused on ensuring women's full and equal participation in society and securing equal opportunities for girls to pursue an education and realize their full potential.

This work brought Zonta to Afghanistan where, from 2002-2006, we partnered with UNICEF USA to eliminate maternal and neonatal tetanus and supported the immunization of more than 50,000 women. From 2002-2008, Zonta International also partnered with the Afghan Institute of Learning to provide access to quality education and vocational skills training for approximately 650 women and girls each year in rural or poor urban settings by improving programs offered by community-based educational organizations. The project also supported basic health services and education for at least 24,000 women and children each year in clinics, community-based organizations and women's learning centers. 

From these partnerships in Afghanistan and from our work with partners in many other parts of the world, we understand and value the importance of girls' education to achieving gender equality. It is a fundamental human right. It can prevent a girl from being forced to marry too young, as we have seen through our support of the UNPFA-UNICEF Global Programme to End Child Marriage. Education has the power to save and improve the lives of women and girls, which leads to healthier families and stronger, more stable societies.

It is for these reasons,  we acknowledge and share concerns that Afghan women will have imposed limitations that prohibit them from being actors in their own decision-making, which is a fundamental human right. We will work through our General Consultative Status at the United Nations to continue to advocate to ensure that women and girls in Afghanistan and elsewhere are able to participate fully in their societies and that girls have access to a quality education and can pursue that education without fear for their safety.

18 AUGUST 2021