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Historically, women and girls in Afghanistan have faced significant obstacles to education. Decades of conflict – marked by a lack of public safety and the destruction of vital infrastructure – severely limited access to schools. When the Taliban came to power in 1996, it strictly forbade female education and closed girls’ schools throughout the country. As a result, 76 percent of women and girls in Afghanistan today have never had the opportunity to go to school, and only 12 percent can read and write.
Investments in education were a priority for the Afghan government and for international donors after the fall of the Taliban in 2001. Massive efforts to rebuild school buildings, train new teachers and enroll boys and girls led to exponential growth in the Afghan educational system. Since 2001, the number of children enrolled in school has risen from 1 million to almost 10 million, nearly 3 million of whom are girls.
Afghan Connection (AC) is one of the champions of education in Afghanistan.
Since 2002, AC has funded the construction and operation of 39 schools in 11 provinces of Afghanistan, providing education for 50,000 children. AC schools are fully equipped with classrooms, science labs, libraries, computer suites, meeting halls, sports facilities, sanitation and clean water. In Afghanistan, where 47 percent of schools have no building and 75 percent do not have safe sanitation, AC schools shine.
Reaching Critical Mass
In 2011, AC decided to concentrate all of its efforts on a single district – the Worsaj district of Takhar Province in northeastern Afghanistan. In this mountainous region, most adults are illiterate but are determined to see their children receive an education.
In just over two years, AC has built eight schools and four resource centers that provide a safe, well-equipped learning environment for over 5,000 children. For families who live more than three kilometers from a school, AC has added Community Based Education (CBE) classes to reach the most marginalized children. These classes will continue until more schools can be built in the district.
In addition to rebuilding educational infrastructure in Worsaj, AC is determined to set a high standard of education in the district. In many remote areas of Afghanistan, teachers do not have basic qualifications and many schools lack female teachers necessary to draw and keep girls in school. AC training classes have recruited and equipped teachers, both male and female, and management courses have provided vital leadership and management skills to 54 district headmasters and principals.
The results of AC’s tireless work are clear. Building on the long-standing relationships of their main partners, AC seems to have reached a critical mass in Worsaj. In a district where hardly a single woman can read or write, nearly all children are enrolled in school. Dropout rates have fallen to close to zero, and a female graduate from Bibi Ayisha school was the first girl from Worsaj to attend university. 365 young mothers have returned to school to continue their education, an uncommon occurrence for girls married young in Afghanistan. Families, confident in the quality and safety of AC schools, continue to send their boys and girls to class each day, rewriting the story of their families and their communities.
Afghan Connection’s Measurable Goals
Each year, Afghan Connection seeks to:
- Fund two school constructions
- Support 1,000 children in community based schools
- Train 200 teachers in Worsaj
National Geographic has pledged to match up to $80,000 in funds for a new AC school in Worsaj. If you would like to support AC, tax-deductible gifts can be made through www.give2asia.org/afghanconnection
 Ashley Jackson, “High Stakes: Girls’ Education in Afghanistan,” Joint Briefing Paper for Ministry of Education, July 2011.
What’s Happening in Afghanistan?
While there have been tremendous gains in Afghanistan, lack of security threatens these gains daily.
Q&A with Dr. Nilofar Ibrahimi, Member of Parliament, Afghanistan
Dr. Nilofar Ibrahimi is a member of the national assembly of Afghanistan. She represents Badakhshan province in the Wolesi Jirga (house of representatives). Her story is one of survival, pursuit of dreams, and dedication to women’s well-being and health. Here, Dr. Ibrahimi shares her thoughts on the current state of Afghan women’s empowerment, the challenges women face in achieving equal rights, and the impact women have on the country’s long-term peace, security, and prosperity.
In Case You Missed It: The Breadwinner, an animated film about the strength and resilience of Afghan women and girls, premieres in the U.S.
The Breadwinner, a new animated film from executive producer Angelina Jolie, tells the story of Parvana, an 11-year-old girl growing up under the Taliban in Afghanistan in 2001. When her father is wrongfully arrested, Parvana disguises herself as a boy in order to support her family. With dauntless perseverance, Parvana draws strength from the stories her father told her, and ultimately risks her life to discover if he is still alive. The Breadwinner is an inspiring reminder of the power of stories, and their potential to unite and heal us all. It also provides an important spotlight on the struggle endured by Afghan families during the Taliban regime and the resilience of women and girls and their influence in building a brighter future for Afghanistan. Last year, the Bush Institute released We Are Afghan Women: Voices of Hope, which spotlights more of these courageous stories of Afghan women. Learn more about the book and our work by visiting:&nb