Creating a New Future: Girls and Women’s Education in Afghanistan
This International Women’s Day, World Food Program USA is proud to announce three new grantees for the Catherine Bertini Trust Fund for Girls’ Education: Lamia Afghan Foundation, Razia’ Ray of Hope Foundation, and School of Leadership Afghanistan.
Hunger affects women and girls disproportionately: They make up 60% of the world’s hungriest people. This disparity is due almost entirely to unequal access to education, resources, and tools for personal and economic success. The Catherine Bertini Trust Fund for Girls’ Education works to change this by empowering women and girls with the knowledge, training, and leadership skills necessary to achieve food security and reach their full potential.
Lamia Afghan Foundation
The Lamia Afghan Foundation is an all-volunteer nonprofit dedicated to helping the children and disadvantaged people of Afghanistan by providing humanitarian aid, educational opportunities, and vocational training that will create opportunities for the next generation of Afghans that were unavailable or out of reach for their parents.
Recently the Lamia Afghan Foundation (LAF) successfully implemented a home-school model for girls in the eastern city of Jalalabad, Afghanistan. This model is implemented in close collaboration with the Community Development Councils (CDCs) on the outskirts of the city. The community elders provide space for classrooms and select female teachers who have completed grade ten or twelve. Teachers are given intense, short-term training on teaching methodology.
In this model, students and teachers are provided with books, stationery, a whiteboard and other classroom items. The LAF volunteers work closely with the community elders to establish the home schools. Once a school is established, a female coordinator will visit these schools on a regular basis and provide progress updates to the project coordinator.
Speaking about the grant, President & CEO John Bradley, Lieutenant General, U.S. Air Force (Retired) said, “This generous grant will allow us to have ten schools for girls in a protected and safe environment. They will be able to study beyond the sixth grade even though the Taliban has said that is the limit for public schooling for girls. We have educated tens of thousands of girls in the fourteen years of our foundation work. The Taliban may be in control of the government now, but the education they received cannot be taken from these girls.”
Razia’s Ray of Hope Foundation
Founded in 2007 by humanitarian, social innovator and Afghan native Razia Jan, Razia’s Ray of Hope is supported by a global team of women leaders and visionaries committed to peace. The Foundation knows that community-based, culturally aware education is a critical pathway toward meaningful change for future generations, Razia’s Ray of Hope provides young Afghans with the opportunity to learn in a safe, nurturing environment.
The newly installed government has implemented a requirement that girls must be taught by female teachers exclusively, creating a shortage of female teachers and causing girls across Afghanistan to lose their access to education. Many girls’ schools have not been allowed to re-open under the new regulations. To break this cycle and restore girls’ access to education in Afghanistan, the certification of more female teachers is imperative.
In response to the new regulations, the Razia Jan Institute (RJI) will launch a two-year teacher certification program in Spring 2022. This program has been approved by the Ministry of Education and will enroll 20 young women who have recently graduated from high school. The curriculum includes computer skills, English literature and languages (Dari, Pashto, Arabic and English). Upon completion in December 2023, the young women will be prepared for exams to become certified teachers by the Ministry of Education.
When speaking about the grant, Founder Razia Jan said, “The Catherine Bertini Trust Fund for Girls’ Education investment in our teacher training program helps to ensure the sustainability of Afghan girls’ education, and we could not be more grateful. Educated girls show the world the value of a dowry is nothing compared to that of a diploma.”
School of Leadership Afghanistan (SOLA)
In the Pashto language, the word “sola” means “peace”: This word is the vision and goal of the School of Leadership Afghanistan. The mission of SOLA is to provide Afghan girls with an environment where they can focus on their education and reach their potential in a way that is unprecedented in Afghanistan. SOLA can provide a safe and nurturing space in which to learn, where students can go from believing their role in society is to raise a family to navigating the world as critical thinkers and leaders who understand that they have the power to shape their nation’s future.
SOLA’s boarding school model is unique and present in 28 of the 34 provinces in Afghanistan. The residential faculty provides round-the-clock guidance and supervision. Their program creates opportunities for students to explore personal interests and practice leadership skills among their peers. Older students serve as “big sisters” to younger girls, with each one taking on a leadership role at school to make the concept of female leadership a norm for all students.
In response to the current situation, founder Shabana Basij-Rasikh said, “The Taliban’s return to power in Afghanistan has imperiled the educations of millions of Afghan girls — not only girls still living in Afghanistan but also those now dispersed worldwide in refugee camps. We’ve recently launched our 2022 admissions season at SOLA, and this grant will broaden our ability to specifically reach out to Afghan girls in these camps and to ultimately bring dozens of them to our Rwanda campus to continue their schooling this fall.”
In 2022, and for the foreseeable future, SOLA will operate as a boarding school in Rwanda intending to recruit 50 students from the Afghan diaspora — particularly from the population forced out of Afghanistan by the Taliban last summer.
The Bertini Fund has supported dozens of girl-centered education programs over the years, ensuring that thousands of young women could access the schooling they deserve. You can see all of their stories here.
About World Food Program USA | The United Nations World Food Programme is the 2020 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate and the world’s largest humanitarian organization, saving lives in emergencies and using food assistance to build a pathway to peace, stability and prosperity for people recovering from conflict, disasters and the impact of climate change.
World Food Program USA, a 501(c)3 organization based in Washington, DC, proudly supports the mission of the United Nations World Food Programme by mobilizing American policymakers, businesses and individuals to advance the global movement to end hunger. Our leadership and support help to bolster an enduring American legacy of feeding families in need around the world. Learn more about World Food Program USA’s mission.
About the Catherine Bertini Trust Fund for Girls’ Education | After winning the World Food Prize in 2003, Catherine Bertini, the former executive director for the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP), recognized an opportunity to leave a lasting legacy for women’s empowerment. Bertini used her winnings to establish the Catherine Bertini Trust Fund for Girls’ Education, a fund that supports innovative grassroots initiatives around the globe that boost access to training and educational opportunities for girls.