Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai on Monday urged the United States to take action in helping Afghan girls return to the classroom in the wake of the Taliban takeover as she met with Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
Malala, 24, who was shot in the head by an assassin from the Pakistani Taliban nine years ago but survived, said she had come to talk about ‘equality in education.’
‘But we know that Afghanistan right now is the only country where girls do not have access to secondary education,’ she said.
‘They are prohibited from learning, and I have been working together with Afghan girls and women’s activists, and there is this one message from them: that they should be given the right to work.
‘They should be able to go to school.’
Activists have repeatedly sounded the alarm about a sharp erosion of rights since the Taliban seized control of the country in the middle of August, as U.S, troops departed.
Education campaigner Malala Yousafzai urged the U.S. to do more in helping girls get back to school in Afghanistan when she met Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Monday
Taliban gunmen seen in Kabul, where the Islamist movement has been in control since August. They have not allowed girls in grades 7-12 to return to school
On Friday, the Islamist group issued a ‘special decree’ outlining women’s rights under their rule.
‘A woman is not a property, but a noble and free human being; no one can give her to anyone in exchange of for peace deal or to end animosity,’ it said.
But it made no reference to getting an education or a job.
Although the Taliban has allowed younger girls to return to school, they say grades 7-12 may only return once classes are held in an ‘Islamic manner.’
They say special transportation is needed to ferry them to school and that they cannot be taught by male teachers.
Women have also been barred from government jobs.
Before the meeting at the U.S. State Department, Malala read from a letter addressed to President Joe Biden from a 15-year-old Afghan girl named Sotodah.
‘And she writes that the longer schools and universities remain closed to girls, the more it will shade hope for our future phase,’ she said.
‘Girls’ education is a powerful tool for bringing peace and security. If girls don’t learn, Afghanistan will suffer, too.
‘As a girl and as a human being, I need you to know that I have rights. Women and girls have rights.
‘Afghans have the right to live in peace, go to school, and play.’
The Biden administration finds itself in a dilemma. Having left Afghanistan this year it must navigate how to continue to deliver aid to an impoverished country, while keeping the Taliban at arms length.
Aid agencies are sounding warnings about hunger as a bitter winter approaches.
Malala announced she had married Pakistani cricket executive Asser Malik in an intimate ceremony at her Birmingham home last month
For his part, Blinken said he was looking forward to hearing Malala’s ideas.
‘As I think many, many people know, Malala is truly an inspiration – an inspiration to us, an inspiration to girls and women around the world – but not just an inspiration; someone who by her work, by her efforts, is making a real difference, particularly when it comes to access to education for girls and women, which is a critical issue for President Biden and the United States as well,’ he said.
Malala was a teenage education activist when the Pakistani Taliban hunted her down.
They stopped her school bus and shot her in the face.
She survived and two years later won the Nobel Peace Prize.
Last month, Malala stunned her legions of supporters around the world when she announced that she had married Pakistani cricket executive Asser Malik, 31, at her Birmingham home.
But rather than go on honeymoon, the couple decided to spend their first few days of marriage on the sofa watching cricket.