AIL recently received an update from Hafisa, a young woman that had taken classes at a Women’s Learning Center in rural Herat, Afghanistan. As a teenage girl, Hafisa began going to the WLC in her village where she became literate and learned to sew. In all of her classes, the teachers talked about human rights, peace, health and leadership, emphasizing that anyone can be a leader, even if in a small way.
After graduating from the center, Hafisa was married and moved away. Hafisa’s sewing skills quickly made her popular in her new village with many people bringing her dresses for sewing. Soon, people in the village began asking her to open a center and teach other women to sew. Hafisa remembered the leadership lessons she learned at the AIL WLC in her village and knew that she could start a class.
Starting a center to teach women to sew is a fairly novel concept. At first, her family ignored the requests, but due to community persistence, Hafisa’s family eventually allowed her to open a center in her home. Now she uses one room of her house to teach a sewing class and has 40 students. She collects a fee from the students, and this income has helped to change her family’s economic situation. She is respected in her community and her family is proud of her. Whenever she goes to her own village to see her parents, she visits the AIL center and thanks AIL for giving her the opportunity to be a useful person in her community. Not only did Hafisa learn to sew, she learned to be a leader and found that she could run a self-sufficient center.
During 2008 AIL educated 14,408 women and girls in Fast-Track classes in its Women’s Learning Centers (WLC) and schools. The girls that attend AIL classes range from school age girls looking for extra help and to gain new skills to older women attending literacy courses. Many of the older women begin coming to the center to learn a new skill, such as sewing, and end up also participating in AIL’s literacy courses.
We would like to share with you comments from three of the female beneficiaries of AIL’s programs. The three women range in age from 14 to 45 and lead very different lives, but all have found AIL programs to be invaluable to improving their quality of live.
The first story is that of a 45 year old widow who has 6 children. She says “My oldest son is 23 and he works during the day. It’s been very difficult for all 7 of us to live on the money my son earns. I heard from a neighbor that there is a center near our village, and I decided to join this center to help my family. I would like to thank AIL for establishing such a center for the poor people of my village.”
The second story is that of a 14 year old girl that was struggling with her classes in a regular school. She says, “I am 14 years old and studying chemistry at this center. I am very interested to learn English and science, but I have a great deal of problems in chemistry, so I decided to first solve my problems in chemistry, then I will join other classes. I would like to thank the AIL office.”
That last story is that of a married woman who has come to an AIL center to continue her education. She says, “I am studying in a literacy class. I went to a regular school until 5th grade, but because of my situation I did not finish school. After a long time, I got married and now I have 3 children and could not go back to school, so I have started coming to the center to receive an education and solve my problems.”
Dear Global Giving Donors,
We would like to send a huge thank you to those that donated to AIL’s Fast Tracking Education project during the challenge grant period! We were successful in meeting and exceeding our goal of raising at least $5000 and receiving donations from at least 50 donors; in fact, we raised a total of $6,020 from 55 donors. Thank you for helping us to secure our $2,500 bonus from Global Giving.
Also, we have some great news to share: the Safer World Fund has decided to match dollar for dollar every donation made to our Fast Tracking Education project, which means that the grand total raised during the challenge period is $14,540! With this money, AIL will be able to provide literacy classes to 224 women and girls
Thank you once again for your generous support of our project. We appreciate you taking the time to make a difference in the lives of Afghan women and girls.
The educational opportunities available to older women in Afghanistan are almost non-existent. The Afghan Institute of Learning (AIL) is where Afghan women older than the customary school age turn to gain the skills and education necessary to help improve their lives.
We’d like to share a recent success story from a Women’s Learning Center (WLC) near Herat, Afghanistan with you. The following is what a 50 year old student, with two school age sons shared with our AIL Herat staff during one of their visits to the WLC she attends.
“I am very happy to sit in this class and learn how to read and write.” As she showed her work to the supervisors, she was very happy and laughing. She continued, “My son, a university student encouraged me to come to this center. During the three months since I have began here, I have learned more than my younger son who is in the 6th grade in a regular school. My young son came to me one day and asked for my help with his school work. I began to laugh, and joked with him ‘Shame on you. I have learned more in three months than you have learned in school!’ He replied, ‘Mom! You know there are no good teachers in the regular schools and we just waste our time there. It is not my fault, but a problem with the system.’
The women then smiled and said, “I have promised my son attending the university that I will compete with him. I am sure I can reach a higher class.”
AIL is making a difference in the lives of Afghan women and children by giving them access to education, and ultimately, hope for a better future.
Since the establishment of the Afghan Institute of Learning (AIL) the goal has been to help women improve their situation in life. Following are a few stories from AIL’s Women’s Learning Centers (WLC) that exemplify the changes that AIL can make in Afghan women’s lives.
When AIL student Rizagul was a young girl, her father was put in prison by the Taliban regime where he was tortured and eventually died leaving behind Rizagul as well as her young brother and her unwell, elderly mother.
Four years ago, Rizagul came to one of AIL’s rural WLC’s in Herat province and began taking various classes, including literacy and sewing. After two years at the center, she was able to gain admission to a regular school at grade level 4, a feat which might have taken 4 years in a regular school, if it happened at all. Even after gaining admission to the regular school, Rizagul continued to take extra courses after school at the center. Unfortunately, the center was closed due to the poor security situation in the region and Rizagul could no longer take the extra courses she had come to enjoy.
A short time ago, an AIL teacher saw Rizagul at a wedding ceremony in their village. Rizagul could not control her emotions and tears rolled down her cheeks as she told her teacher, “You and AIL were the best thing for me, and I will never, never forget your encouragement and all of the hard work that you did for me.” She added, “I can now read in Arabic, I know how to sew and I am a student in grade 6. What I am is because of the AIL center.”
She also said that she is sewing dresses to make money for her family and that she has so much business that she has to turn some people away. She is making a good living, and is able to improve her family’s economic situation with her sewing skills.
Rizagul also told the teacher, “With the advice that the center supervisor wrote in my ‘memory notebook’ (try to learn, work hard for a better future and pray for your future) I am sure that I will go toward a better future.”
Following is the story of Jamila, a literacy student in the 7th grade. Jamila attends one of AIL’s centers in northern Pakistan that services many refugees from rural areas in eastern Afghanistan where women are generally not educated. This center grew out of a girl’s school that was established in 1996 – 1997. In 2002, it was clear that the students from the girls’ school needed a place to continue their education and a Women’s Learning Center was established there. One should also take note of the fact that Jamila is currently in the 7th grade, but has not been in school 7 years. Her story is one of hard work and a determination to become educated.
“I am very happy, I can’t believe that I am in the 7th class and all because of AIL. My family and I are very thankful for Prof. Sakena Yacoobi, the Executive Director of AIL for providing this opportunity for us. My father is a wrathful person and he didn’t want me to go to school and learn things. I was very sad, and day by day I grew older and could not go to school. Last year we changed our home. Some of our neighbors near our home told us about a women’s learning center provided by AIL for women and girls. Once again, I requested that my father give me permission to join this center. After many requests, when my father heard that this center was for women, he accepted and I joined this center. Now I am in the 7th class and every night I help my father with his shop finances. I am very happy that I can help solve my family problems, and now my father is also very happy. I always pray for Prof. Sakena Yacoobi and the AIL staff.”
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