Afghanistan has made great progress over the past two decades toward empowering women, strengthening democracy, improving access to health care and providing education to millions of children. International donors have had a direct impact on the lives of many Afghans, offering us opportunities for economic growth as we strive for human rights and dignity.
Yet much more work is needed to transform our nation into a functioning democracy. Luckily, we can count on a young population that is eager to contribute; its involvement in the country’s social, economic and political life will determine our ability to succeed. We must ensure that our young people are given the opportunities to take charge, and education is key in this endeavor.
Today, over 27.5 million Afghans — more than half of the country’s population — are younger than 25. They have come of age in an era of hard-won democratic gains, increasingly hopeful and unwilling to relive the tragedies of their parents’ war-torn generation. Many of these young citizens live in cities. They grew up with cellphones, the internet and access to information.
But major obstacles are blocking progress. Parts of the country remain under Taliban rule, and constant fighting between the militant Islamic group and government forces has killed and displaced many people. After President Trump in September called off negotiations with Taliban leaders to end America’s military involvement in the country, peace seems more distant than ever. Human rights groups continue to denounce injustices across the country, and little accountability exists for perpetrators of violence against women and children.