An Apology To The Afghan Girl

By Dr. Ewelina U. Ochab, Contributor

October 11 is the International Day of the Girl Child, a day to empower the girl child and promise her a better future. However, today, I am sorry to say that I do not have good news for you. You have grown up with the promise of a better future. Throughout your life, you have been seeing international forces in Afghanistan as they were stabilizing the region, with the promise of a better future. Throughout your life, you were told about human rights and that they were also for women and girls. You were told that women can rule the world. You have seen the powerful women on the news. You went to school to have a better future. You started making plans, for a better future. You had dreams and hopes, for a better future. 

An Afghan girl learns the letters of the Dari alphabet on a blackboard in an outdoor classroom, during a lesson on the first day of the official school year March 23, 2002 in Kabul, Afghanistan. (Photo credit: Natalie Behring-Chisholm/Getty Images) Getty Images

Then, in August 2021, all these promises, plans, dream, hopes, came crashing down, one by one until there was nothing left. 

After August 2021, you were told to stay home as otherwise you would not be safe. You were told you can leave home only with a male chaperone. After August 2021, you watched girls up to grade 6 returning to school but you know that their happiness is only temporary. After August 2021, you were not called back to school for grades 7 and 12. You stayed home. You know from your parents that under the Taliban reign between 1996 to 2001, women and girls were barred from school. You wonder whether this is going to happen to you too. You wonder how you will be able to become a doctor or a lawyer without education. 

After August 2021, you have watched as every piece of the country was taken over by the Taliban. You watched as people were being killed or tortured. Thousands were fleeing, thousands went into hiding. You are afraid too. You smiled when you saw women protesting the reign of the Taliban. This smile diapered very quickly with every whip they received for daring to protest. 

You wondered why the Ministry of Women’s Affairs premises was converted into offices for the religious morality police. But you now know very well that this is the beginning of a new part of your life and future, a future where as a woman you will exist only as an extension of a man, and not in your own right. 

After August 2021, you wondered whether you and your family can find a safe haven somewhere else, where girls can have a better future. But you know that no State is doing evacuations anymore. You hear that States do not want to offer resettlement for Afghans anymore. You hear stories of the people left behind. 

You know you are not alone. You know that there are thousands and thousands of girls like you. Locked up at home. Without hopes and dreams. Scared. But it does not make you feel less alone. 

On this International Day of the Girl Child I would like to tell you that there will be a future, however, I cannot make such a promise. I fear for your future and I fear there is nothing I can do. For this, I apologize. 

On December 19, 2011, UN General Assembly adopted Resolution 66/170 and so declared October 11 the International Day of the Girl Child. The International Day of the Girl Child is focused on working towards empowering girls. The resolution identifies that “empowerment of and investment in girls, which are critical for ... the meaningful participation of girls in decisions that affect them, are key in breaking the cycle of discrimination and violence and in promoting and protecting the full and effective enjoyment of their human rights, and recognizing also that empowering girls requires their active participation in decision-making processes and the active support and engagement of their parents, legal guardians, families and care providers, as well as boys and men and the wider community.”

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