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news | September 22, 2016 | Afghanistan | Development

Empowering girls in Afghanistan through education: Focus on the Girls’ Education Challenge programme

ACTED and DFID girls' education project in Faryab, Afghanistan - ©Farzana Wahidy, 2016

For the past three years, ACTED has been working to improve girls’ educational opportunities in Afghanistan through the DFID-funded Girls’ Education Challenge (GEC) program. ACTED has supported over 4,000 girls enroll in primary school, graduated over 10,000 girls from literacy and numeracy classes, and supported over 700 girls in learning a vocation.

Overcoming barriers to girls’ enrollment in schools

Girls in Afghanistan face many barriers to education, including few schools within safe walking distance, lack of support from family and community members, and poverty that makes it difficult for families to buy basic school supplies. Just 17% of women in Afghanistan can read and write, and as of 2012, 40% of girls in Faryab were not attending primary school. Without an education, it is nearly impossible for women to find a job and support themselves or their family.

ACTED was one of four GEC partners in Afghanistan, and the only partner working in Faryab province. The program, launched in 2012 and supported by DFID, invested globally over 350 million EUR in the education of a million of the world’s poorest girls to expand their opportunities and improve their lives. 37 GEC projects are working in 18 countries to enable girls to learn through improved schools, better teaching, and greater community engagement. ACTED implemented its GEC project in Faryab province, where insecurity, poverty, and cultural sensitivities often make it difficult for girls to receive an education.

Ensuring sustainability by collaborating with the Afghan Ministry of Education

Over the course of the three-year program, ACTED built ten primary schools for girls and seven Youth Development Centers, which provided a safe space for girls to learn and play. The primary schools have since been handed over to the Ministry of Education to ensure their sustainability. Through a community outreach campaign, ACTED also supported 4,100 girls to enroll in ACTED constructed primary schools. Other components of the project also included a literacy and numeracy program - from which 10,756 girls have graduated—as well as vocational training courses, such as tailoring and embroidery, which counted 741 female graduates. During the winter, when there is no formal school, ACTED also offered three months of supplementary classes for students—the first program of its kind in Afghanistan. As a result of this program, children who had not been able to attend school in previous months due to insecurity were able to catch up on classes and learning.

ACTED’s education program in Faryab addressed these issues by building new schools for girls to attend, talking with families and community leaders about the importance and benefit of educating girls, and provided girls with formal primary education, basic literacy and numeracy classes, and vocational training that teaches marketable skills. Altogether, over 15,500 girls in Faryab benefitted from this program.