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Girls' Education: The Antidote to Terrorism

by Central Asia Institute
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Girls' Education: The Antidote to Terrorism
Girls' Education: The Antidote to Terrorism
Girls' Education: The Antidote to Terrorism
Girls' Education: The Antidote to Terrorism
Girls' Education: The Antidote to Terrorism
Girls' Education: The Antidote to Terrorism
Girls' Education: The Antidote to Terrorism
Girls' Education: The Antidote to Terrorism
Girls' Education: The Antidote to Terrorism
Girls' Education: The Antidote to Terrorism
Girls' Education: The Antidote to Terrorism
Girls' Education: The Antidote to Terrorism
Girls' Education: The Antidote to Terrorism

Accessing school in the rural villages of Afghanistan, Pakistan and Tajikistan can be a harrowing experience for a girl.
The nearest school may be a three- or four-mile walk on dangerous roads where she is subject to harassment from men she passes. The threat doesn’t always come from strangers, and often she is hiding her schooling from a male relative who will beat her, burn her or even kill her for attempting to do something as harmless as learning to write her name.

The cornerstone of women’s equality is education—but access to classrooms, school supplies, and teachers is often scarce in the places that need it the most. UNICEF reports that 65 million girls were out of both primary and lower secondary schools in 2013. There is a myriad of reasons girls miss out on education from poverty to war and displacement, to violence or lack of resources.

Cultural and familial norms may limit access to education through threats of violence and shame or ridicule, even when resources are available. Villages deep-seated in tribal customs and conservative traditions expect women to care for children, tend to household duties, and serve their husbands. A woman who challenges these norms by going to school can be seen as shameful or immodest, damaging the honor of the family. Men are expected to control their women, and violence is a common way to punish transgressions.

According to a report by Global Rights, a human rights organization, an estimated 90 percent of women in Afghanistan suffered physical, sexual, or psychological violence or forced marriage, most of it perpetrated by family. The situation is similar in Pakistan with an estimated 70 to 90 percent of women subjected to domestic violence. Admitting to domestic violence in the family is taboo in these developing countries, so many women don’t report their abuse. If they leave their husbands or families, they will be exiled with no resources and no place to go.
Not all men and families are opposed to their wives, daughters and sisters attending school. Many men, especially those who have had schooling, see the value in women’s education as a way to help support their families. However, violent resistance is still common, especially in rural and conservative communities where most detractors are themselves uneducated.

Despite this, sentiment towards girls’ education has been shifting in Central Asia for many years. Many more communities are making the change to support women’s literacy and girls’ education, despite the violence and threats. Central Asia Institute (CAI), a nonprofit organization based in the U.S., works with partners in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Tajikistan to build schools, provide teacher trainings and promote education for girls in some of the most remote areas of the world.


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Gulobshoeva: Kindergarten Teacher in Tajikistan
Gulobshoeva: Kindergarten Teacher in Tajikistan

The Unstoppable Revolution Starts With Girls' Education

There is a quiet revolution taking place in the mountains, along the streams, in the cities, and the small villages throughout Central Asia. This revolution has nothing to do with warlords or violent clashes. It has everything to do with books, pencils, and empowering women. This movement is an unstoppable revolution for girls' education. All through the region, girls and women are determined to go to school. Education gives them a future; it's the key to becoming unstoppable.

This past spring, our communications director, Hannah White, witnessed first-hand the moments these women and girls realized that, with education, nothing can stop them. She brought back stories and photos to share the Unstoppable Revolution with our supporters and friends. You are making this women's education revolution unstoppable. 

You can read these stories in a photo essay featured in the lastest Journey of Hope magazine, but here are a few bonus images and stories from the many women and girls who have picked up chalkboards and books to declare themselves unstoppable. 

Gulobshoeva Zarnigor, is a teacher at a CAI-supported kindergarten in Tajikistan.  CAI teacher trainings help make her unstoppable, "The training helped a lot. Now teachers talk less, kids are happier, and they learn more."  Before CAI teacher-training courses, Gulobshoeva and her fellow teachers had outdated lessons from the former Soviet Union. Now they use stories to keep the kids interested and create interactive lessons. 

Salima wants to be a doctor to help victims of landmines. She attends the third-grade level class at one of CAI's Quick Learning Centers (QLC) in Kabul.  QLCs are programs designed to help older students who have never attended school to catch up to their peers before they enter a classroom.  The class has 30 students, all of whom are girls.  They are broken up into five or six groups, each with a student team leader.  Salima is one of the group leaders, and she's determined to remain unstoppable until she reaches her goal.

Anisa is also attending the QLC and wants to be a policewoman who protects people when she grows up. Anisa accidentally dropped a brick on her foot the morning before this photo was taken, but it didn't keep her from being unstoppable, "I hurt my toe. It is hard to walk, but I wanted to come to class."

Empowering Women and Girls Through Education

All over Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Tajikistan, girls and women are empowered to be part of this unstoppable revolution for girls' education. Some of them go to school despite disapproval from their families or long treks to the nearest classroom. They want to read and write, they want to have careers, and they want to help other women find what makes them unstoppable too. 

Salima: Quick Learning Center in Kabul
Salima: Quick Learning Center in Kabul
Anisa: Quick Learning Center in Kabul
Anisa: Quick Learning Center in Kabul


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The morning of August 25, a 10 hour assault on the American University of Afghanistan by unidentified militants came to an end. Witnesses recounted that the attack began with an explosion, which allowed militants to breach the campus gate and enter the premises. Gunmen in plain clothes then attacked students, teachers, and staff.

Students and teachers reportedly jumped out of second-story windows and leapt walls in an effort to escape.

The University is a growing hub for Afghan intellectualism, and boasts more than 1,700 students (many of whom are women). It was not surprising then that the U.S. State Department labeled the incident “an attack on the future of Afghanistan.” Afghan President Ashraf Ghani also spoke out about the incident saying in a statement, this “will not only fail to shake our determination, but will further strengthen it to fight and eradicate terror.”

This assault on education and peace hits at the core of our mission and our hearts. Central Asia Institute condemns this heinous act in the strongest possible way. In this time of grief we would like to share our condolences with those families who lost someone and send our wishes for the speedy recovery of those who were wounded.

Newton’s third law states, that for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. Our reaction to terrorism and ignorance, is peace and education. So we are making a pledge.

For every student who was killed in this horrific attack, the global CAI family will provide a scholarship to send one student to school.

We cannot do it alone. We all grieve for the innocent lives lost. But grieving alone will not change anything. Let us fill the classroom chairs that are now empty.

The Guardian reports that at least 16 people lost their lives in the assault, including eight students and two professors, and dozens more were injured. These young women and men were the next Afghan leaders, the next Afghan peacemakers, and the best hope for a bright future.

Take a stand against violence. #Fill the chairs. The future of education in Afghanistan depends on the action you take today.


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In 2014 alone there were over 13,000 terrorist attacks worldwide.

“They blow up our schools. They kill our teachers,” said Muhammad Asif, a teacher at Khodi Dust Girl’s Higher Secondary School, of extremists in the area.  He teaches in a remote, conservative village in Afghanistan’s Nangarhar Province.

“Things happen in other provinces and parents won’t let kids come to school for weeks,” he says.

The teachers of Khodi Dust kept telling Central Asia Institute that they felt the surest way to reduce support for militancy was education.

“Without school boys join fighting… We have to resist. There is no choice,” continued Asif. “The only way to prevent Afghanistan from going backwards is education.”

The school where Asif works accommodates 638 girls and 153 boys. The future of these 791 children is precarious, but with education their futures will be much brighter, especially if the girls are educated.

As women become more educated, they are less likely to support militancy and terrorism than similarly educated men, according to a University of Maryland School of Public Policy survey. The survey of Pakistani women also found that uneducated women are more likely to support militancy and terrorism than similarly educated men.

The impact is long-lasting. Young men and boys recruited by extremist groups are required to get their mothers' blessings before joining such an organization, or going on a suicide mission. So, girls who are educated - especially who complete secondary school - grow up to be mothers who are less likely to give their sons permission to pursue violent solutions.

The communities we serve are working tirelessly to provide their children with opportunities. Central Asia Institute will do no less.

To learn more about this issue and others be sure to sign up for our blog, Field Notes (

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TWO DECADES ago a movement began at the base of the Karakorum Mountain range – peace through education, the mission of Central Asia Institute. It started in the small village of Korphe, but quickly spread across northern Pakistan, over the border into Afghanistan, and through the mountains to Tajikistan. In 2016, Central Asia Institute celebrates its twentieth anniversary. Since 1996 when CAI was formally founded, the organization has brought education to hundreds of thousands of people; built schools in some of the most daunting locations; dispensed financial aid to promising young women; trained midwives in the latest medical techniques so they could return to their hometowns to save lives and share their skills; taught women bookkeeping and vocational skills to help them supplement their incomes and thus provide for their families; and offered men and women alternatives to extremism, violence, and isolation. And this all began in the little town of Korphe, Pakistan.

THE NEXT PHASE IN KORPHE EDUCATION Over the next few years the community flourished and enrollment at the new school grew by leaps and bounds. The student body eventually became so large that village elders asked for additional classrooms. The school had reached capacity, with close to 200 students from Korphe and the surrounding towns of Munjong, Teste, Askole, Sino, Tsurungo, and Tongol packed into the small structure. Even taking class in shifts, boys in the morning and girls in the afternoon, was not enough. Consequently, last spring CAI set out to raise funds for an expansion. Thanks to your generous contributions we were able to build an extension – four new classrooms, an office for teachers, a boundary wall, and a playground. The Korphe school sits on donated land above the Braldu River. “The project was the most challenging of my life,” said CAI Baltistan Manager Mohammad Nazir. “Very hard work because roads were blocked, bridges washed out, porter problems, no Jeep available, no food, walking 13 to 16 hours, no water because of summer mud, and no skilled labor.” Despite the challenges, the building was completed last fall. Children returning to class in March will have a new building waiting for them. CAI sends our best wishes and chuk chuk (hand claps) to the people of Korphe and everyone, including you, who made this project possible. It seems so fitting that we will celebrate our 20th anniversary with such an amazing accomplishment in the village where the movement began so many years ago. We can’t wait to see what the next 20 years have in store!

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Central Asia Institute

Location: Bozeman, MT - USA
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @Peacethroughed
Project Leader:
Jennifer Pearson
Bozeman, MT United States
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