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.”