Malala Yousafzai says she fears the coronavirus crisis will cause millions of girls worldwide to lose their education.
The activist and Nobel Prize laureate, 23, said the pandemic had “drastically” impacted progress made over 20 years, and many young women were being forced to abandon their education.
Speaking to Vogue, she said: “We have seen progress over the past 20 years, it has been a steady and slow progress, however, things have changed drastically because of Covid.
“It’s because these girls are now in their homes and they now have more family work to do, they’re asked to do family chores, they’re asked to become financial supporters for their family.
“All these girls are pushed into early child marriages and many of these girls may never be able to return to school.
“This is something that we saw in the Ebola crisis as well and this is the fear that I have for girls – that they will lose their education because of this pandemic.”
Malala Fund, founded in 2013 to champion girls’ rights to safe, quality education, conducted research which showed 20 million more girls are at risk of losing their education due to the crisis.
Ms Yousafzai also questioned the futures of such young women when circumstances returned “to normal” and said future education programmes should be more inclusive.
“What does it mean for their education especially now that we are shifting towards more education that is based on technology and more digital education?” she said.
“The challenge ahead is to ensure that education is inclusive, that we bring in policies that are inclusive and that take girls into account.”
Ms Yousafzai was shot in the head by a Taliban gunman at the age of 15 after campaigning for girls to be educated in her native Pakistan.