The ministry of economy (MoEc) and the United Nation Population Fund (UNFPA) on Wednesday marked World Population Day by highlighting the situation of teenage girls and the importance of empowering them to participate in the development of their society.
The theme of World Population Day 2016 “Investing in Teenage Girls” is aimed at promoting a world that is more just, stable and peaceful.
According to the deputy minister of economy, Mohammad Ismail Rahimi: “Afghanistan for sure has seen significant improvements in regards to girls’ education and their participation, however, we agree that more efforts are required to meet the sustainable development goals and the Afghan Government is committed to doing more for an Afghanistan that should contribute to planet 50-50 by 2030”.
UNFPA country representative for Afghanistan, Bannet Ndyanabangi said: “In Afghanistan, 57 percent of girls are married before the age of 19. Girls in Afghanistan are more prone to early marriage, a harmful traditional practice, which perpetuates the cycle of poverty and gender inequalities within the society, and greatly impinges on the human rights of girls. This is a challenge and shall be a barrier for girls’ education unless we work hand-in-hand and do something about it.”
According to 2014 data from the Central Statistics Organization of Afghanistan a total of 9.2 million Afghans are enrolled in formal education, that includes primary, secondary, high school, vocational school, night school, university etc. Of this total, 3.6 million are female – which is 39.5% of the total 9.2 million.
UNFPA said that as far as attendance in higher education or university is concerned not only does the total number of attendance for both boys and girls dramatically decrease, but also the gap between boys and girls attendance increases.
They said of the 300,000 boys and girls enrolled in universities, only 65,000 are girls. This means that if the current trend continues, almost four out of five girls will never have the opportunity to continue education, and may never realize their full potential.
UNFPA said these girls denied education are more likely to contribute to the continuation of the poverty cycle to the next generation.
The organization said the success of the sustainable development agenda depends on how well everyone supports and invests in teenage girls. “When countries such as Afghanistan support and invest in youth, especially teenage girls, and create opportunities for them to realize their full potential, such countries are also better able to realize a demographic dividend, which will in turn propel economic growth and combat poverty,” a UNFPA statement read.