Learning Centers for Rural Afghan Women in Herat


Recently, AIL was asked by the Afghan Ministry of Women’s Affairs to report on the impact AIL’s programs have had. We were amazed by our findings. Since beginning in 1996 through May 2009, 220,970 Afghans have been educated in AIL schools, centers and post-secondary programs and overall 6,778,026 Afghan lives have been directly impacted by AIL programs.

We recently estimated that since beginning Women’s Learning Centers in Afghanistan and Pakistan approximately 220,970 people have taken classes in them. During 2008 AIL’s WLCs in Herat, Afghanistan held classes for 7,080 Afghans of which 5,242 (74%) were women. Since the beginning of 2009, the WLC’s have helped to educate 4,263 people of which 3,153 (74%) were women. AIL is very excited about the nearly 10% increase in students from this time last year.

In the WLC’s, AIL offers classes in subjects such as sewing and tailoring, literacy, English, computers, miniature painting, embroidery, beautician, math, painting, preschool, Pashto, and carpet weaving.

We’d like to share with you a few success stories from our centers, success stories that your donations made possible.

Mariam returned to Afghanistan from Iran a few years ago. Since returning, she has faced many problems including unemployment because she was illiterate. Fortunately, she was introduced to an AIL center by one of her friends. Her first priority was to become literate, and she began to take classes. After completing the 6th grade at the center, she joined the embroidery class at the center because she wanted to learn a skill which could help to provide an income for her family. After graduating from the embroidery class, she began working at the center as an embroidery instructor. She is so happy to be teaching other women to be self sufficient. Mariam said, “I would like to thank AIL for changing my life. I would also like to thank the AIL staff for their good work for our community.”

During a recent workshop at an AIL center, one of the participants shared this story with the center staff: “I was illiterate and my husband had graduated from high school. My husband’s mother told me that I should learn to read by participating in a literacy course, but that I must take the class at a center where there would not be any men in my class. I found the AIL center and decided to take classes here with my sisters. My husband’s mother has never come here with me, until today. She stood outside the class and watched as our Life Skills class was taught by a man, and I worried about what I should say to her. I began to relax as I realized that my teachers were good and moral people, and decided that I must be patient and after class I would talk to my husband’s mother. When I came out of class, I saw her standing there and I shared with her all of the things I had learned. She told me that she could hear that I was being taught well, and that she would like to join our class.”

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 served 5071 females in women's learning centers in Herat. They studied many subjects including sewing, art, embroidery, beautician, Arabic, English, literacy, math and physics. We would like to share with you the story of one of the beneficiaries of the learning centers in Herat: "Five years ago, when I enrolled myself in the AIL Women's Learning Center, my neighbor made fun of me and told me that I was to old to learn and that I should go home and have a normal life. She added that if I started learning now, I would implement whatever I learned in the other world. I told her 'I will learn now, and I will implement my knowledge in this world.' Fortunately, I succeeded in my task because I believed in it and I am now a tailor; I am a teacher; and I am a Community Health Worker providing consultations to other women in my village. It is funny that now my neighbor and her family come to me to receive health education, medicine and family planning education, and it is unbelievable to her that I have reached this level of success. Recently, this neighbor sent her 3rd grade daughter to the center to learn reading and writing. Once again, I told my neighbor 'Humans can learn at any stage no matter how old they are; it is not late for anybody.'" Thank you so much for making this possible!!!!!

Since the establishment of the Afghan Institute of Learning (AIL) the goal has been to help women improve their situation in life. Following is a story from one of AIL’s Women’s Learning Centers (WLC) that exemplifies 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.”

The Afghan Institute of Learning (AIL) in Herat now has 14 Women’s Learning Centers for 3,149 students. Ten of the centers are located in rural areas and the four centers in Herat City serve displaced and poor women and children. 75% of the students are female. All classes are Fast Track classes (see prior reports). Subjects that can be studied include literacy, math, computer, English, tailoring, carpet weaving, embroidery, knitting, art, calligraphy, Arabic and beautician training. All classes include lessons in peace education, health, human rights and leadership. All of the teachers have continuous training and students report that they learn faster in AIL classes because of the quality of the teachers than they do in schools or other places.

Many of the students attending the AIL centers lead difficult lives and studying at the centers has helped them to improve their situation. Here are the stories of a few of theses students.

Zahra is a teacher at the Jabraeel center. She began learning English in this center in 2004. Zahra lost her father when she was very small. She spent hard time with her mothers, brother and sisters while they returned from Iran to Afganistan. She had wanted to learn the English language, and once she began classes, she progressed very quickly, reaching the highest level of instruction in one year. AIL hired her as English language teacher at the same center where she had been a student. She also has volunteered as a literacy teacher at the center. The salary she has gotten from the center spent on her education. She also has participated in sewing classes at the center as well as an AIL leadership seminar. Zahra says, “All of my success belongs to AIL. The salary I get from AIL I spend to support my family. I teach four different English language classes.” Zahra did not stop to learn she got admission in computer class in the center. During Jun 2007 A.I.L introduced six students for the Exchange Student Program. Among the, Zahra was the only one who could pass the first session of the tests. She reached the second session and after the passing the second test she will go to the USA through the mentioned program.

Sadiqa a student of the sewing course at the Jabraeel center says, “AIL is in the heart of every resident of Jabraeel, because every one has access to the different educational field that he or she is interested in. 90 % of the people of the people of Jabraeel have benefited from AIL programs. It means that each two people of each home use Jabraeel center.”

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Project Leader

Sakena Yacoobi

Founder & CEO
Dearborn, Michigan United States

Where is this project located?

Map of Learning Centers for Rural Afghan Women in Herat