Deep cuts to Australia's international aid budget could jeopardise vital gains made educating young girls in Afghanistan, a Kabul-based aid worker says.
Christina Northey has spent more than two years in the Middle East as Afghanistan country director for Canberra-based aid organisation CARE Australia.
The organisation aims to remove barriers to formal education for young girls as Afghanis deal with the devastating affect of years of conflict, drought and massive population displacement.
Ms Northey said aid workers would find it very challenging to educate young people if the federal government went ahead with planned $7.6 billion cuts to foreign aid.
"I think the Australian government and Australian people have been very generous and loyal friends for Afghanistan, particularly over the last 14 years," Ms Northey said.
"To see further cuts to the aid budget to Afghanistan I think, regrettably, we would would start to see then a reversal in some of the gains we've made over the years.
"Now's not the time to cut the aid budget, it's actually time to consolidate and continue to grow the aid budget so we can build on some of these really significant gains that we're seeing around getting girls into schools."
The looming cuts prompted Ms Northey to share the "good news story" of what had been achieved in Afghanistan through foreign aid.
The organisation focused on culturally sensitive schooling for isolated children and has provided basic education to 135,000 students since 1998.
Ms Northey said an educated Afghan girl was more likely to stay in school longer, marry later and have fewer children.
Female students had expressed ambitions of becoming teachers and doctors.
Ms Northey, who was back in Canberra last week, said an interest in aid work in fragile nations had previously taken her to Angola, Zambia and Vietnam.
"I'm very much drawn to working with people impacted by conflict because I think it's one of the biggest social injustices we are dealing with today in the world."
She said it was "too soon to tell" what affect the ongoing withdrawal of combat troops would have in Afghanistan.
"For me the security context continues to be a very dynamic context, and a challenging context and one that we as an international aid agency are following very closely, while continuing to hope for the best outcome for the Afghan people."
She admitted her perceptions of Afghanistan were turned on their head during her first weeks in Kabul.
"Quite often what we see on the television are the grey, very high security walls.
"What people don't understand is behind those walls are beautiful gardens filled with roses and all kinds of flowers and vegetables and lovely old Afghan homes.
"There's certainly life behind those walls, people are getting on with work, with family, people celebrate."