percentage of female students in decades. In Afghanistan today there is an education system again, and women and girls are part of it. But the quality of education is highly variable, school conditions are often poor, and nearly half a million girls who are enrolled in school do not regularly attend. Most girls will not get to university and even fewer will go on to have a career. However, I believe the outstanding work of women’s rights organisations and others will bring change. The biggest threat may be what happens when international troops withdraw in 2014. It is vital that women’s rights are at the heart of the peace process, or another generation of women may lose their right to learn. Education is a human right, so for us it’s about equality, empowering women and girls to claim their human rights alongside their fathers, brothers and sons. But there’s also a practical side, because women who have an education and skills are in a position to earn an income. In a country with epidemic levels of violence against women this means that they are less likely to
be dependent on an abusive husband or male relative. Having information about the law and their rights means they are also more likely to be able to negotiate marrying who they like when they’re ready, rather than being forced to marry when they are children. The Afghan Women’s Resource Centre provides practical education to girls and women who were forbidden to learn under the Taliban. Education is carried out through a community education centre, the STEP Institute in Kabul, which was set up in 2011. The specific project on skills development is co-funded by an individual donor and the UK Department for International Development. These courses allow women to learn in a safe environment, with a focus on vocational subjects including journalism, business skills and tailoring. They also teach literacy, civil and political rights, and women and family law. Afghanistan is a challenging context if you are working on women’s rights. While there has been some progress, human rights violations against women and girls continue to happen on a daily basis. Child marriage is still common. Discrimination and violence against women and girls is an everyday occurrence, including fatal attacks on women speaking out publicly for human rights.
Education is a human right, so for us it’s about equality, empowering girls to claim their human rights
Girls’ right to education SACHITRA CHITRAKAR Afghanistan development programme co-ordinator, Oxfam HER VIEW
I have been involved with distancelearning education in Afghanistan for the past 12 months. The distance-learning model is designed to bring quality education for girls and boys closer to home, enabling them to perform better and motivating them to complete higher grades. The programme is complemented by training teachers in gender sensitive education – making sure that teachers allow both boys and girls to participate in class – and raising community awareness of the merits of girls’ education. The Girls’ Right to Education in Afghanistan Through Innovative Distance Education Approach – the GREAT IDEA programme – is the only distance-learning project of its kind in Afghanistan. It provides an opportunity for quality education for girls via live telecast. So, how does it work? A teacher in a local television station in Kabul teaches a class in a specialist subject such as science or maths. This lesson is broadcast live into provincial classrooms, giving students access to lessons not available at their local school. After the telecast, teachers and pupils can prepare and ask questions of master teachers back in the studio by mobile phone. Programme organisers have also started considering the possibility of using tablet computers loaded CONTINUED ON PAGE 24 ➧ MARCH/APRIL 2013 ● LEADERSHIP FOCUS
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Leadership Focus March/April 2013