04/12/2014 04:00 GMT | Updated 02/02/2015 05:59 GMT

What Will the Future Hold for Sakina?

Thursday sees ministers from all over the world gather in the UK for the London Conference on Afghanistan to talk about the country's future development. This is a very critical time, international troops are mostly withdrawing and the world will be watching to see how this will affect the country's security and development.

I have a very special reason for being concerned about the future of Afghanistan, and in particular how this will affect the situation for women and girls. I sponsor an 11 year-old girl called Sakina - who lives in the far northeast of Afghanistan - through the charity ActionAid.


Since international forces drove the Taliban from power in 2001, the lives of Afghan women and girls has hugely improved; over two million girls are now in school compared to about 5,000 in 2001, maternal mortality has more than halved and women now make up around 50% of those working in media and civil society.

However, there is much more that needs to be done. ActionAid's new report, 'Hanging in the balance: why the international community must redouble its commitment to Afghan women's rights' ( states that nine out of 10 women over 15 are illiterate and with early and forced marriage there are many barriers to girls education. Violence against women and girls remains endemic: 87% of women face at least one form of domestic abuse, with 62% experiencing several forms.

But what concerns me most of all, is that the gains made for womens' rights may be lost. Evidence is emerging that women are being targeted with violence in areas where the Taliban is gaining round, while the vital steps forward made in women's health and education could go into reverse.

Like millions of girls in Afghanistan, Sakina doesn't go to school. She is the eldest of seven children and spends her days helping her mother care for her siblings, wash clothes and dishes and sweep the two-roomed mud and brick house. In her village the soil is sandy and difficult to cultivate and water and food is in scarce supply.

Sakina has lived her whole life in a country torn apart by war and conflict and the problems for her and other children in the country are massive. It's a difficult part of the world to operate in, but ActionAid is working closely with local women, their communities and local traditional leaders with the aim of giving girls and boys equal educational opportunities and improve the quality of schools.

It is also doing innovative work to support women to get equal rights on their land and property, with child custody and to help women affected by domestic abuse.

My hope for today is that the conference in London listens to the voices of Afghan women. It is only then that peace and long-term development will be effective.

And my hope for the future is one where Sakina and her daughters will one day have a chance for a good education, to live in a peaceful society where women have equal rights and in a country which develops and prospers.

There are thousands of children like Sakina, in countries affected by war and conflict such as the Democratic Republic of Congo, Myanmar and Afghanistan, who urgently need sponsors this Christmas. Could you help to give one child a future?

Actress, Jodie Whittaker is currently best known for her role in the incredibly popular TV series Broadchurch. Jodie first came to prominence in 2006, when she starred opposite Peter O'Toole in the film Venus. Since then Jodie has starred in many films including Attack the Block, TV series such as Black Mirror, Cranford and theatre including Antigone at the National Theatre.

Jodie is an ActionAid Ambassador and talks here about the fight to improve women's rights in Afghanistan and helping children affected by conflict.