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Yao Chen appeals for better access to basic education for refugee children


Yao Chen appeals for better access to basic education for refugee children

19 December 2015 Also available in:
Girls in Kot Chandana refugee school together with National Goodwill Ambassador of UNHCR Chinese Actress Yao Chen.

ISLAMABAD: UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador in China, Yao Chen expressed her concerns about the staggering number of out of school Afghan refugee as well as local children in Pakistan.

She stressed on the need to adopt a forward-looking approach to providing quality primary education to as many refugee children as possible. Emphasising refugee youth with education and necessary skills will contribute to the rebuilding of Afghanistan.

Yao Chen said, “The world cannot afford to fail the new generation of displaced children who have great potential be become successful individuals and play contractive role for peace building in the world.” She was talking to the media on the concluding day of her first visit to Pakistan, where she heard stories of extraordinary resilience and courage from Afghan refugees. UNHCR Representative in Pakistan, Indrika Ratwatte and Chief Commissioner for Afghan Refugees Dr. Imran Zeb were also present at the occasion.

During her four-day visit, Yao spent two days at Kot Chandana Refugee Village, in northwest of Pakistan’s Punjab province. There she met with the 2015 UNHCR Nansen Refugee Award Laureate, Aqeela Asifi, an Afghan refugee teacher, who has dedicated her life to giving refugee girls an education. Mrs. Asifi is among the top 50 contenders for the Global Teacher Prize 2016.

“Meeting Aqeela and her students, was indeed a great honour for me.” Yao told journalists. “People like Asifi are the true agents of change, who despite all odds devote their lives for the betterment of others,” she said.

The UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador, who met Afghan children and youth in Islamabad and Kot Chandana refugee village, added her voice to recent calls by UNHCR Representative in Pakistan, Indrika Ratwatte, for more international attention and help particularly in the areas of youth empowerment, education and skill development for young Afghan refugees in Pakistan. “It is essential that we continue to invest in the Afghan refugee children to give them the necessary skills as they are the future human capital of Afghanistan.” Ratwatte added.

Yao said that, women and girls constitute more than 50 percent of the wold’s population. “Therefore for the formation of a progressive society, it is imperative to eliminate gender disparities in education and ensure equal access to all levels of education and vocational training for women, persons with disabilities and children in vulnerable situations.” She asserted.

Present at the occasion, Mr. Ratwatte emphasised on the obligations of international community to continue assisting Afghan refugees. He said, “If our key programs in the areas of education and youth empowerment for Afghan refugees do not get adequate resources, young people without options and possibilities - either here or in their home countries - will look for other alternates out of despair, which the world may not be able to withstand.”

“Empowerment of refugees can help advance lasting solutions for Afghan refugees: empowered refugees are more likely to return and sustainably reintegrate in Afghanistan, and to positively contribute to the reconstruction and nation-building processes in their homeland and/or to the economies of their host countries.” Ratwatte maintained.

Pakistan remains host to the world largest protracted refugee population. Children and youth constitute 70 percent of the total 1.5 million registered Afghan refugees in Pakistan. Yao Chen said she wanted to draw attention to this forgotten humanitarian (Afghan refugee) situation and urged international community and governments to increase their support for UNHCR and its partners for Afghan refugees.

Yao recalled that inclusive and equitable education and promoting lifelong learning opportunities for all has been agreed upon in the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Yao informed that she is aware of UNHCR’s work at the global level on SDG 4 to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all by 2030.

She also thanked the Government and people of Pakistan for their generosity in hosting Afghan refugees and expending a very warm hospitality and for ensure her security in the field. She applauded humanitarian workers who despite security challenges are devotedly working for underprivileged people.

Yao Chen is an acclaimed Chinese actress and one of the world's top micro-bloggers with 71 million fan following on social media. She is also named the 83rd most powerful woman on the planet in 2015 by Forbes. Yao Chen started working as UNHCR's Honorary Patron in China in June 2010, when she visited urban refugees in Philippines capital, Manila.



The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) was established on 14 December 1950 by the United Nations General Assembly. The agency is mandated to lead and coordinate international action to protect refugees and resolve refugee issues. It strives to ensure that everyone has the right to seek asylum and find safe refuge in another state, with the option to voluntarily return home when conditions are conducive for return, integrate locally or resettle to a third country. UNHCR has twice won the Nobel Peace Prize, in 1954 for its ground-breaking work in helping the refugees of Europe, and in 1981 for its worldwide assistance to refugees.