Trigger the Girl Effect in Afghanistan

by BRAC USA
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Girls in a community-based school in Afghanistan.
Girls in a community-based school in Afghanistan.

Last year, we told you about a storytelling competition for primary school girls in Afghanistan. It aimed to foster communication skills in students, develop positive reading habits and improve awareness about personal health, hygiene, history and culture. It was one of the biggest successes of the year, and we hoped its popularity would prove contagious.

Thanks to your support, it did, and we far exceeded our storytelling competition target of 6,000 students - with almost 12,000 children participating, more than 90 percent girls! As the larger Girls Education project enters its final six months, we want to share with you some more of the key accomplishments you have made possible, as well as some of the toughest challenges.

In Afghanistan, girls face systemic, institutionalized barriers to receiving an education. This project set out to empower young women and girls by triggering the girl effect in Afghanistan: coordinating with government officials from the Department of Education, training female teachers, creating safe spaces for adolescents and educating primary school girls who otherwise would not receive an education – all to support Afghanistan as it works to ensure every eligible child is enrolled in school by 2020.

From the start, the project’s core was the establishment of many community-based schools, cutting down on the distance between girls and their schools, and making sure those schools were safe spaces to learn. With six months to go, we’ve again surpassed our goal, establishing 4,000 new schools. We also built 17 multiple-room schoolhouses and 22 separate modern toilets.

To staff these schools, you supported the training of almost 4,000 schoolteachers in English, Maths, Chemistry, Biology and Physics, and 138 government officials. All received training to support gender inclusion and equity in the classroom.

Peer mentoring is another important part of the project. Studies show that one of the best ways to encourage new behaviour is through peer counselling. We continue to support the more than 4,000 girl mentors who were trained in specialized classes to help their peers.

Finally, girls can only have access to an education insofar as their parents support it. To ease the burden on the poorest families, BRAC instituted stipends for girls who had dropped out. These were girls with exemplary attendance records, but whose families could no longer afford to send them to school. The stipend innovation proved massively successful, ensuring high performance and attendance from 98 percent of the recipients. We are looking for ways to sustain this program past the project end.

From an original ten provinces, over three years the project expanded to ultimately include 12: Baghlan, Balkh, Bamyan, Herat, Jowzjan, Kabul, Kandahar, Kapisa, Nangarhar, Parwan, Samangan and Maidan Wardak.  Throughout it, security remained a pressing concern, as did gender discrimination. BRAC also encountered unexpected challenges: students migrating out of their local school zone in the summer due to high temperatures; a dearth of quality female teachers in remote regions; difficulty locating at-cost land suitable for construction.

Still, after the project ends in February 2017, with your help, BRAC will have trained thousands of local women as community school teachers and set up thousands of primary schools for girls who would have otherwise been left behind. With your generous support, we’ve worked closely with communities to raise awareness of the importance of educating girls, and engaged other NGOs to help get girls in school.

We are grateful to you for supporting equitable access to quality education in Afghanistan. BRAC believes that a focus on women and girls is a critical component of achieving development goals and alleviating poverty worldwide. With your continued support, together we will ensure the education gap in Afghanistan disappears entirely, one day just a whisper of a tumultuous past.

"I am no longer ashamed because I do not know."
"I am no longer ashamed because I do not know."

In Afghanistan, it is estimated that only one in three girls will complete her primary education. This project set out to empower women and girls by triggering ‘the girl effect’: training female teachers, creating safe spaces for adolescents, and educating primary school girls who otherwise would not receive an education.

With your support, BRAC has made great progress to create opportunities for Afghan girls. With help from funding partners, BRAC has created 1670 community based girls’ schools and enrolled more than 50,000 marginalized girls. This is no small feat. In many Afghan communities, one of the biggest challenges girls face is mobility. To go to BRAC schools, girls don’t have to leave their villages, which helps minimize the security threat and calms worried parents. In addition, BRAC teachers foster creative thinking through modern pedagogies to teach language, literacy, numeracy, science and religion. In a region where rote memorization is usually the norm, these colorful, cheerful schools foster early childhood development and playful learning.

To help adolescents who have dropped out of school, BRAC has a stipend program as well as a peer-mentoring program to give girls support and education opportunities. By the close of this project, BRAC will provide stipends to 6,000 girls who have dropped out of school so they can re-enter government schools. BRAC has already trained 4,000 mentors who each run a girls' club that creates a safe space for adolescents to learn about health issues and life skills.

One of the biggest successes BRAC had this year was a storytelling competition for girls from its primary schools. The aim of the competition was to foster students’ communication skills, enhance public speaking skills, develop positive reading habits and improve students’ awareness about personal health and hygiene, history and culture. The event was a huge success.

“We are committed to the Afghan people and international community to provide education for those who do not have access to education, and this project is one of them,” said Mr. Ghulam Jelani Hamayun the deputy minister for Academic Affairs of the Ministry of Education of Afghanistan.

See the attached link to read more about the storytelling competition.

BRAC is grateful to supporters for providing opportunities for Afghan girls eager for an education.

Links:

Girls in Afghanistan classroom
Girls in Afghanistan classroom

At the UN General Assembly in September, actress Emma Watson, known worldwide for her role as Hermione Granger in the Harry Potter series, gave a speech that has now received over one million views on youtube. Her campaign HeforShe targets men specifically and asks them to be partners in decreasing gender discrimination.

Engaging men to champion women and girls’ rights is a key component of BRAC’s education programming in Afghanistan. In rural areas, girls’ access to education is less than any other country in the world. Sixty percent of the country’s 4.2 million children out of school are girls. BRAC schools in Afghanistan currently have 9,877 boys and 110,770 girls enrolled, with both male and female program staff and teachers, and engages with both parents as part of a concerted effort to decrease gender discrimination in schools. In the coming school year, with your help, BRAC will expand its programming to two new provinces, trailblazing the way for girls, with male community leaders and fathers as partners.

Some of the major obstacles to girls' educational attainment in Afghanistan are long distance to schools, lack of security, conservative attitudes towards education and restriction on girls' mobility, poverty, male preference, lack of female teachers and the widespread custom of marrying girls at a very early age.

Creating girl-friendly learning environments is one of the main ways to address these barriers. BRAC's method is to establish schools within isolated communities to eliminate long, insecure travel, and to recruit and train local women as teachers. When schools are close-by and classrooms are run by women, parents are more inclined to allow their daughters to go to school as they perceive less risks for thier girls.

As mentioned in the last report, we have already begun recruiting and training local, female teachers to staff the community-based schools that we have established. We have also provided training to nearly 1,000 government school teachers, 334 of which are female. We still need your support to establish the Adolescent Learning Centers (ALCs). The ALCs are meant to be an educational space for adolescents that have been left out of the educational system, and our goal is to provide students with life-skills and livelihood training. Please make a donation today!

One of the winners of the mathematics competition!
One of the winners of the mathematics competition!

After 12 years work establishing an education program in Afghanistan, BRAC was able to organize a country-wide mathematics competition in which 17,840 male and female students from 600 BRAC schools participated. Out of the 17,840 students, 14 competitors advanced to the national level and received awards including the student pictured above.

The month long competition ended on March 16, 2014 and the awards ceremony was held at Kabul Paris Hall. The ceremony was attended by distinguished guests from the government of Afghanistan as well as key members of the BRAC Afghanistan team.

The competition was unique that we designed it in a way to increase the confidence and numeracy skills of the students, encouraging the ability to solve complex problems. All students participated in the event were very keen, interested, enthusiastic and lively.

It is within this context that BRAC is currently operating the Education for All project to trigger the girl effect in Afghanistan. We are assisting the government of Afghanistan towards its goals of universal enrollment by 2020 and creating an educational culture that is more girl-friendly.

With help from our other partners, the BRAC Afghanistan team is on its way to meeting the goals that we have set out for this project. So far, the team has established 1,601 of the 4,000 community based schools, including 200 pre-primary schools. The team has begun recruiting and training local women as teachers as well as providing training to teachers and officials in the government school system. Currently, 944 government teachers have received additional training as well as 32 Ministry of Education officials.

The team hopes to begin establishing the Adolescent Learning Centers (ALCs) by 2015. The ALCs will become spaces for girls who have been left out of formal education. By contributing to this project, you are helping to create an environment in which girls education is valued. When a girl is educated, she is more likely to continue education, more likely to delay marriage and motherhood, and she increases her lifetime earning potential. This is the girl effect in action!

 

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Organization Information

BRAC USA

Location: New York, NY - USA
Website: http:/​/​www.bracusa.org
Project Leader:
Scott MacMillan
New York, NY United States

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