Director-General Joins Advocates for Women’s Education in Afghanistan
On 21 September 2011, UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova attended a dinner and reception co-hosted by the US-Afghan Women’s Council, the UNESCO Chair at Georgetown University, and the US National Commission for UNESCO. The event, entitled, “Celebrating Women’s and Girls’ Education in Afghanistan: A Snapshot of Successes and Challenges”, focused on the importance of educating women in the conflict/post-conflict society of Afghanistan.
Coinciding with UN Peace Day and the UN General Assembly High-Level Session, participants strategized on potential cooperation with the local and national media to promote the work and accomplishments of the Council's projects, trainings, and other events. The Executive Director of the Afghan Institute of Learning, Sakeena Yacoobi, spoke about education’s potential impact on an Afghan girl’s life, stemming from her own experiences as a young girl who was lucky enough to receive an education when many of her peers did not.
US Ambassador-at-large for Global Women’s Issues and co-chair of the Afghan Women’s Council, Melanne Verveer, discussed the Council’s mission of empowering women through the mobilization of private and public sector resources. Through its literacy and microfinance programmes targeting young children as well as adults, the Council aims to help establish more women in key leadership roles throughout the country, at the local, national and international level.
The panel discussion featured statements from various experts on Afghanistan, including Sultana Hakimi, wife of the current Afghani Ambassador to the US, Mr Eklil Ahmad Hakimi, as well as representatives from private sector and media. Deputy Administrator of USAID, Donald Steinberg, discussed the “Mobile Money Afghanistan” program which allows Afghans to manage their money through a mobile phone. This initiative, when targeted towards women, has particular benefit in that they are more likely than men to re-invest saved money back to their children and family.
Irina Bokova gave the closing remarks of the evening, where she spoke about the value of educating adolescent girls for creating a healthy and economically viable society. Thanking the other speakers for all they were doing to raise awareness on the many problems still facing Afghan women, the Director-General discussed the impact of UNESCO’s Literacy Initiative for Empowerment Programme, which has so far reached some 55,000 Afghan women. The programme has training and skills development as an end goal, which in turn has a ripple effect across communities.
However, Irina Bokova warned, on-going conflict is still preventing many students, particularly girls, from receiving a proper education. This is something that the international community must address.
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