Malala Yousafzai calls for stronger US support of Afghan women

Washington (AFP) : Human rights advocate Malala Yousafzai, who survived an attack by the Pakistani Taliban in 2012, argued Monday for stronger US support of Afghan girls and women during a visit to Washington.

“Afghanistan right now is the only country where girls do not have access to secondary education. They are prohibited from learning,” the 24-year-old, who works with female Afghan activists, noted in remarks standing alongside US Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

“This is the message of Afghan girls right now: we want to see a world where all girls can have access to safe and quality education,” she added, while presenting a letter addressed to President Joe Biden from a 15-year-old Afghan girl named Sotodah.

Sotodah wrote in her letter that “the longer schools and universities remain closed to girls, the more it will shade hope for [their] future,” according to Yousafzai.

“Girls’ education is a powerful tool for bringing peace and security,” added Yousafzai, reading the letter, “If girls don’t learn, Afghanistan will suffer, too.”

Secondary schools in Afghanistan, where the Taliban regained power this summer, have reopened for boys only, and only men are permitted to teach.

“We hope that the United States, together with the UN, will take immediate actions to ensure that girls are allowed to go back to their schools as soon as possible,” Yousafzai noted before a private meeting with the secretary.

Blinken, whose country this summer hastily withdrew its troops from Afghanistan after 20 years of war, saluted Yousafzai as “an inspiration to girls and women around the world,” and someone who “by her work, by her efforts, is making a real difference.”