Education project from Afghanistan helping war-affected women and girls receives UNESCO Literacy Prize
Aid Afghanistan for Education (AAE), has been awarded one of this year’s five UNESCO International Literacy Prizes, for its efforts in providing learning opportunities for women and girls through their ‘Accelerated Education for Marginalized Women and Girls’ programme.
AAE was established right after the Afghan war in 2003, during which many boys and girls fell out of the formal education system. The objective was to provide a second chance to marginalized women and girls to complete their education and fully participate in society and the labour market.
“When I visited girl schools in 2002, after the defeat of the Taliban, in Kabul, I realized that 17 and 18 year old girls were attending 3rd and 4th grades,” says Hassina Sherjan, Founder and Director of AAE. “For the first time, I recognized a serious challenge that girls were faced with as a result of 30 years of war. There was an urgent need for an accelerated education programme to help three generations overcome these challenges and to be able to complete high school.”
The programme makes it possible for students to receive their high school diplomas within seven to eight years, and provides access to vocational training that enables them to work as office managers, accountants or administrators. Extracurricular activities consist of English language learning, vocational training for office management, basic accounting, computer and leadership skills.
“AAE accelerated education programme is a model that takes literacy to another level by taking the students to 12th grade in seven to eight years (primary and secondary) and teaching them skills for employment to support their families,” says Ms Sherjan.
Target beneficiaries are girls and women between the age of 12 to 25, who don’t have access to formal education system in Afghanistan due to age, marital status, returnees without documentation and ID’s.
Since 2003, 3,000 women have benefited from these educational opportunities across six provinces and 80 per cent of the 2,217 graduates have gone on to higher education or stable employment.
AAE and the Ministry of Education have recently signed a five-year agreement that will expand the programme to cover rural areas and cover 26 provinces to benefit 12,500 female students in 36 schools by 2022.
“Education is the vehicle to peace. By educating mothers, we educate the next generations.
I’d like to see development agencies focusing on long term sustainable programs that would be integrated in the formal education system and available to everyone,” says Ms Sherjan.
This year’s UNESCO International Literacy Prizes will be awarded to laureates from Afghanistan, Islamic Republic of Iran, Nigeria, Spain and Uruguay on the occasion of International Literacy Day, which is celebrated on 8 September. The Prize Award Ceremony will take place at the global event for International Literacy Day on 7 September at UNESCO Headquarters. This year’s International Literacy Prizes and global event theme is ‘literacy and skills development’.