Lika Torikashvili '22: Localizing Youth Peace and Security in Afghanistan
Lika Torikashvili '22, a former UN Youth Representative of Georgia, has co-organized a series of roundtable discussions with UNFPA and UNESCO in Afghanistan on Online Education through her non-profit, the Network of Former Youth Delegates to the United Nations.
Torikashvili, together with Afghan colleagues Aisha Khurram (a former UN Youth Delegate of Afghanistan) and Hasib Hambard (Kabul University student) are leading youth-led solutions to the education crisis in Afghanistan.
Roundtable discussions united universities, donors, UN agencies and cluster representatives to advocate for immediate action to support higher education access. The Call to Action document was presented as a blueprint for future actions concerning higher education access. The presentation detailed the challenges of accessing higher education faced by youth, especially female students in Afghanistan, and recommendations for innovative approaches to ensure their right to education.
August 2022 marks one year since Taliban takeover of Afghanistan. Since the changes in political situation in 2021, 39 public universities halted operations for a few months and reopened in February 2022. Many private universities have remained open but have faced severe financial difficulties for continued operations; such hardship is exacerbated by the added extra cost of conducting separate classes for female and male students—or using partitions to divide them in compliance with the de facto authorities’ instructions. The increased restrictions on female students in public universities, the crippling financial situation of private ones, the unbalanced state of Afghanistan’s education system and the propagandist curriculum imposed by de facto authorities will drive many girls out of university and deprive them of a lifetime of progress by missing out on higher education.
To call for immediate action to further support Afghan female and male students, and their advocacy efforts, the Network of Former Youth Delegates to the United Nations in collaboration with UNESCO, UNFPA, and the Adolescents and Youth Working Group (AYWG) organized a series of Roundtable Discussions to explore Afghan youth perceptions, ideas and innovation around access to higher education, as well as to boost donor and key stakeholders willingness to support access to higher education for Afghan youths, especially females.
As a result of this series of roundtables, a youth-led team of Lika Torikashvili, Aisha Khurram and Hasib Hamdard, in partnership with UNESCO, are launching a pilot program of E-Learning Centers. The Centers will provide alternative innovative pathways to tackle the education crisis through technologies and has the potential to see many other vulnerable female and male students getting an opportunity to finish their degree programs.
Additionally, Torikashvili is organizing a peace talk regarding the Israel-Palestine war with visiting faculty and longtime environmental activist Rabbi Michael Cohen, and an imam from Duke University.
“As a Peace and Conflict Studies major at Bennington I always saw myself working in the field of diplomacy and peacebuilding,” said Torikashvili. “Being Jewish, I work closely with Muslim collegues from around the world, which is a message of peace and dialogue between nations, religions and cultures. I believe that our work can serve as inspiration to our peers: Jews and Muslims can and must work together, building a better world for generations to come.”