The Nobel Peace Prize laureate stressed the importance of keeping girls’ education on the agenda during peace negotiations between the Afghan government and Taliban militants in an interview with Pakistani public service broadcaster Radio Mashaal on Monday.
Keeping girls in school is a known peacebuilding tool. When girls are educated, they are more likely to help rebuild their communities and contribute positively to society.
Yousafzai emphasized the need for peace for the Afghan people, who have lived through four decades of war.
“We all hope that peace comes to this world so that our people have their own normal life,” she said. “But it is very necessary that [the government and the Taliban] have to listen to the voices of civil society and women, and there should be no compromise on girls' education and human rights because peace can't be restored without human rights.”
The Taliban believes that educating women goes against Islam — Yousafzai was targeted by the group because of it. The Sunni Islamic militant group shot her because she was advocating for girls' education using a pen name in 2012. Yousafzai helped bring global attention to the group’s violent threat to Pakistan’s young women by talking about her experience.
After several delays, Afghanistan and the Taliban started peace talks in Doha, Qatar on Sept. 12, according to the New York Times. Afghan activists are skeptical of the Taliban’s recent promises to consider women’s rights under Islamic law in peace negotiations. The 20-member Afghan negotiating team includes only three women, raising concerns.
Girls were already behind in their education before the COVID-19 pandemic hit Afghanistan and now the Global Partnership for Education estimates 3.5 million children are out of school in the country –– most of them are girls.
At a United Nations General Assembly side event on Sept. 18, Yousafzai warned that as many as 20 million girls worldwide may not go back to school even after the COVID-19 pandemic is over. The global education funding gap has already increased by $200 billion annually, she added.
Yousafzai also put pressure on the international community to follow through with its commitment to the UN’s Global Goals, which she noted are nowhere close to being met. She urged the countries present to commit to creating “a place where every girl can learn and lead.”