Geneva Summit Speaker Nila Ibrahimi Featured in CBC Article

Around 1 million girls can’t go to school in Afghanistan, UN says

By CBC Kids – October 11th, 2023

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  • Nila Ibrahimi fled Afghanistan in August 2021 because it wasn’t safe for her and her family.
  • Many girls in that country can no longer go to school.
  • Nila, who now lives in Vancouver, British Columbia, is trying to raise awareness about the issue.
  • A Canadian organization is also helping by educating girls in Afghanistan remotely.



If Nila Ibrahimi was still in her home country of Afghanistan, she would never see the inside of a classroom again. Instead, every day of the week, the 16-year-old, who lives in Vancouver, British Columbia, gets to go to school, see her friends and sing in a choir. She sees education as a privilege. “I appreciate the idea that I can go to school here as a girl equally and have equal rights as the boys in this country,” Nila told CBC Kids News. On Oct. 11, International Day of the Girl Child, people around the world recognize girls’ rights and some of the unique challenges they face. Many girls in Afghanistan, for example, no longer have the right to go school. That right was taken away by the Taliban last year. The Taliban is an Islamist extremist group that took over the country by force in 2021. Today, Nila is using her voice to remind people that girls in her home country don’t have the rights they deserve.

“That’s my mission, to keep talking about it. If I make people bored, if I make them tired, I don’t care. I’m going to talk about this until someone steps in and does something or helps.” – Nila Ibrahimi, 16-year-old activist

Nila’s story 

In August 2021, the Taliban officially took over Afghanistan. Nila and her family were living in the capital, Kabul. Within a few days, they had fled to neighbouring Pakistan. Nila said she and her family feared members of the Taliban would hurt them. Among other things, she had spoken publicly about how girls should stand up for their rights and education, which she said made her a target. About a year later, Nila and her family came to Canada as immigrants.

Girls education in Afghanistan

The Taliban’s laws are based on religious beliefs, but they interpret those laws in a way that can severely limit the human rights of its citizens, especially women.

You can read more about the Taliban’s history here.

elementary school aged girls sit in a classroom in Afghanistan.

Only girls in primary grades (elementary) can go to school in Afghanistan. (Image credit: Shafiullah Kakar/AFP/Getty Images) 

Less than a year after the takeover, the Taliban banned girls in Grade 6 and up from going to school. The Taliban said that’s because girls’ education goes against their interpretation of Islamic (Sharia) law. About one million girls in Afghanistan are affected by the ban, according to the United Nations. Afghanistan is the only country on the planet where girls are not allowed to go to school after the elementary (primary) level.

Why education is so important for girls

Countries around the world recognize that the right to an education is important. This is spelled out in a document called the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. For Nila, it’s personal. She said she would miss out on following her passions if she didn’t go to school, like singing and learning French. “To not get educated is the most cruel thing you can do to someone,” Nila said. “There are so many things that they cannot experience…. It just seems like taking away their dreams.” Girls in Afghanistan are “losing completely their future,” said Murwarid Ziayee, senior director of Canadian Women for Women in Afghanistan. Staff at the charity, which is based in Calgary, Alberta, have been educating women in Afghanistan since 1998. If girls go to school, Ziayee said, “they can be so independent and contribute to the rebuilding of the country, contribute to the well-being of their family and be an independent person.”

Murwarid Ziayee stands in front of trees.

Murwarid Ziayee runs an education program for girls in Afghanistan from Calgary, Alberta. She came to Canada from Afghanistan in 2018. (Image submitted by Murwarid Ziayee)

Teaching girls right in their homes

Canadian Women for Women in Afghanistan is taking steps to teach girls in Afghanistan remotely. They offer online courses, libraries and resources that girls can use to become educated within their homes. The group makes sure the girls have access to computers, the internet and solar panels so they can have electricity. They also have to make sure they have permission from the girls’ parents or guardians to proceed. Ziayee said that the group estimates that through various initiatives it is helping more than 1,000 Afghan girls get an education.

Nila speaking at a podium and being broadcast on a screen.

Nila, who is 16, spoke at the Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracy in May. (Image submitted by Nila Ibrahimi)

Nila on using her voice to push for change

Nila said she feels sad thinking about her friends in Afghanistan who can’t go to school. She has promised not to forget what is happening to them. Nila feels it’s her responsibility to speak for the girls who don’t have a voice. “I think it’s very important to speak out when you think something is wrong. Because not many people do.” In May, Nila was invited to Geneva, Switzerland, to speak at an international conference on human rights. “I feel like with the passage of time, it’s getting normal for a world to accept that in one country, [girls] are not allowed to go to school and get an education,” she said. “So that’s my mission, to keep talking about it. If I make people bored, if I make them tired, I don’t care. I’m going to talk about this until someone steps in and does something or helps.” This coming weekend, Nila will be going to Montreal, Quebec, to speak at a symposium (conference) organized by the Canadian Women for Women in Afghanistan.


Kids protesting the Taliban takeover in Afghanistan.

Kids protest in London, England, on Aug. 15, the two-year anniversary of the Taliban takeover in Afghanistan. (Image credit: Frank Augstein/The Associated Press)

What’s Canada doing to help?

In August of this year, the Canadian government released a statement saying it’s working to advance womens’ rights in Afghanistan. Canada advocates “for the full realization of the human rights of all Afghans, particularly the rights of Afghan women and girls,” the statement said. CBC Kids News reached out to Global Affairs Canada for an updated plan but did not hear back by our deadline.

With files from The Associated Press