Afghan Institute of Learning, Dearborn, United Stateshttp://www.afghaninstituteoflearning.org
Afghan Institute of Learning, Dearborn, United Stateshttp://www.afghaninstituteoflearning.org
AIL works to empower Afghans by expanding their educational and health opportunitites and by fostering self-reliance and community participation.
Afghan women and children had no access to education for a decade. After the fall of the Taliban in 2001, the Afghan Institute of Learning organized Educational Learning Centers (ELCs) to bring women life-saving healthcare and education. AIL helps local leaders start ELCs and decide where and what services to offer. AIL has requests for ELCs from many communities that have not historically been open to education for women. AIL now supports 39 ELCs in Afghanistan and refugee camps of Pakistan.
AIL's ELCs serve 420,000 women and children each year with medical and reproductive healthcare, health education, skills training, teacher training, leadership/human rights classes, pre-school through post-secondary education, and fast track classes.
Because AIL is run by Afghan women and respectful of Afghan culture, conservative villages trust AIL to begin services for thousands of isolated women in dire need. Other NGOs and the Afghan government now use this model for women's services.
AIL’s mission is to empower women through education enabling women and girls to take control of their lives. Farzana is one of girls empowered by AIL. Here is her story:
My name is Farzana. I am 17 years old. I come from a poor family in Herat City. I had never had the chance to study in my childhood; the same with other girls my age. Before attending this literacy class, I was a student in sewing class. I heard about a literacy class and immediately enrolled my name in that class. I learned how to read and I learned social skills such as finding friends, contacting with members of family and community. I am going to talk with my father and persuade him let me go to school and make a bright future. I hate ignorance. I want to enjoy myself. I want to thank AIL staff, especially experienced teachers, who helped me change my life."
We thank you all for your generous support! Please take some time to check out our annual newsletter attached to this report.
Dear GlobalGiving Donors,
Thank you so much for supporting the Afghan Institute of Learning’s (AIL) various projects on GlobalGiving. Over the years, the Global Giving donors have become invaluable to AIL. Through your generous support, AIL has been able to provide Afghans with education, health care, training and more.
It is your continued support that is now allowing AIL to evolve along with the young people of Afghanistan. We’d like to share with you the story of how one young woman’s life has been changed thanks to one of AIL’s programs:
I am a 19-year-old woman with two children. I had always wanted to go to school and learn to read, but there was not a school close to my home. It was not safe for me to try and travel to another village to go to school, but I always told myself that if I could go to school, I would be able to get a job and reach my goals.
It was painful to me when my brother learned to read and write, but I couldn’t. One day I watched some women and children who were going somewhere. When I saw that one of them was a woman who had an 8-year-old girl with her, I stopped her and said “Excuse me. Where are you going?” She answered, “A learning center has been established for illiterate women and their children recently. I am going to register myself and my children.”
When I heard this, I was so happy and I said to her, “Please wait a minute. I want to go with you and start to take classes too.” I joined them on their way to the learning center. When we arrived, I was so excited because I saw a lot of women there who had been learning.
Now, I can read and write and I can say proudly that I am literate. I have also learned to be healthy and to be a leader. I am reaching out and touching my wishes and goals. I thank AIL for this opportunity to reach my goals.
Thank you for the support that you give to AIL. We are so grateful to all of our supporters for their continued support of our projects on GlobalGiving. Thank you!
All of us at Creating Hope International (CHI) and the Afghan Institute of Learning (AIL) thank our donors for their support of Afghan women. Since January this year, our learning centers provided education in literacy, tailoring, English, Arabic, math, and science to 19,500 students, of which 13,600 were women and girls. Through June, some 1,620 women took part in educational workshops including topics in reproductive health, leadership, food preparation, and our expectant mother workshops. Over 700 of these women took part in teacher training workshops and seminars, bettering themselves as educators and leaders of their communities.
Educating women is one of the best ways to empower them because they gain self-determination. They gain the freedom to make their own decisions and they gain the skills needed to earn money for themselves and their families. Because of this, communities begin to see women as capable, fully-fledged members of society. This approach allows both the women getting an education and the communities to change their preconceived notions at the grassroots level.
In June, our Herat offices held a week long leadership workshop for 37 women, a majority of whom were university students in their late teens to mid-twenties. They discussed things such as what makes a leader, the difference between bureaucratic administration and leadership, how to share and build upon ideas, topics in social justice, and how leadership can make democracy work in communities. Going in, the women by and large did not know what leadership was; many assumed only people from a particular background or people with weapons could be real leaders. Coming out, the women had new outlooks of what it meant to be a leader.
Sahar, a young woman who took part in the workshop, said:
“This workshop gave me new ideas toward a new thinking for a better life for me and my community. I feel more self-confident and sufficient in myself anymore. I learned there is no limitation for a woman to be a good leader. I will not be shy anymore. As a good leader I am going to change my future."
Sharifa, coming from a different background, had this to say:
"I am a tailor. Before I came to this workshop, I believed that a tailor doesn't need to be a leader. Leadership is only for a certain group of people in a community, but my mind has changed after this workshop. I learned to use my knowledge usefully and transfer it to others. I learned to observe mutual respect as a good leader in the community. Observing justice is another change that I feel in myself since attending the leadership workshop."
We hosted 16 of these leadership workshops through June, and we have scheduled an additional 21 over the next twelve months. Every day we are providing more and more opportunities for Afghan women to empower themselves and each other, be it through our learning centers in literacy and tailoring classes, through our leadership and reproductive health workshops, or through our clinics providing maternal and preventative care. Again, we want to thank you all so much for your support, we could not have accomplished what we have without you!
So many wonderful things have happened for the Afghan Institute of Learning (AIL) in the last few weeks, and we’re very excited to share a few of them with you.
First, on Tuesday the Executive Director of AIL, Sakena Yacoobi received an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from Princeton University. The official citation reads:
With a profound reverence for the well-being of others, this visionary leader devotes her life to the empowerment of poor Afghan women and children. With an unwavering commitment to social justice, against all odds, and often at great personal risk, she built and sustains an institute that makes healthcare and education possible for the most vulnerable. It owes its success in establishing clinics, teaching children, and training educators and caregivers to the deep and lasting ties she has forged with the people she serves and with global communities of care. After decades of work, she is still creating hope, in her home country and throughout the world.
The second article details AIL’s Mobile Literacy Program, giving details of how adding texting to a traditional literacy curriculum helped to accelerate the pace of learning.
Finally, tomorrow is a Global Giving Matching Day, and because AIL is a superstar partner, all donations will be matched at 50%! Matching will begin at 9:00 am EST and funds generally run out after just a few hours.To select a project that you might like to donate to, visit AIL’s page on GlobalGiving.
The Afghan Institute of Learning is very excited to have been given the opportunity to blog at Huffington Post! Our first blog about the Women’s Networking Movement taking place in some of AIL’s centers has been posted. The Women’s Networking Movement is taking place in about 30 of AIL’s centers, schools and clinics. The women coming to these centers are sharing thoughts and ideas in ways that have not been possible until recently.
To learn more about the Women’s Networking Movement, check out our blog at Huffington Post!
Creating Hope International, AIL’s partner, has set up a Facebook page where we will be sharing more news, pictures and information about AIL’s programs. Make sure that you ‘Like’ Creating Hope International on Facebook to get all the latest news!
All of us at Creating Hope International (CHI) and the Afghan Institute of Learning (AIL) would like to thank all of our donors for a very successful year thus far. Every day AIL is bringing education and health care services to more and more Afghan women and children, increasing their quality of life and their standard of living. Women who participate in our learning center programs and the workshops we sponsor are becoming more independent, and are enabled to control aspects of their lives that they were powerless over previously. Without your support, none of this could be possible.
In 2012, AIL held 96 workshops which hosted over 3,400 women, offering instruction on topics such as leadership, reproductive health, and social justice. AIL health clinics also offer services to Afghans at little to no cost to them, an amenity that is normally not available or accessible to women. Our leadership workshops and seminars encourage women to take the lead in their communities and their families. Young women are breaking the mold of traditional Afghan society and are administering programs, becoming teachers, and working for the government. Women are also taking their reproductive health into their own hands, learning and receiving proper prenatal care, learning methods child spacing, and having access to family planning services. Participants in the workshops also learn about social issues like human rights, democratic values, and the value of peace. Afghan women are changing their society from the bottom up and from within.
AIL learning centers held classes for 7,067 women and girls in January, 2013, which has shattered all of our previous attendance records. These numbers are expected to grow throughout the rest of the year. Women are taking classes in literacy, English, Arabic, math, and the sciences, all of which expand their minds and horizons, offering them insight as well as critical thinking ability. Women are also taking applicable training courses in weaving, tailoring, sewing, and macramé, all of which allow for them to earn an income by starting a business or working from home. In both cases, women are taking more control of their lives. These changes are very hopeful and we are optimistic that 2013 will be an even more successful year for Afghan women and girls. We could not have accomplished what we have without your support; we thank you all very much!
The Afghan Institute of Learning (AIL) and Creating Hope International (CHI) would like to wish you and yours the happiest of holiday seasons. As you celebrate with those you love, please take a moment to look at CHI’s yearly newsletter, which we’ve attached to this report. As you will see, 2012 has been a transformative year for AIL and CHI. After years of working tirelessly to provide education, training and healthcare to Afghans, we are beginning to see a real change. The minds of those AIL works with are being opened to the possibility of a peaceful Afghan society.
AIL is in the process of finalizing a 5 year funding plan, which will be put into place beginning in 2013. We are looking forward to sharing the details of this plan with you soon, and hope that you will find it in your heart to give generously to help us reach our goal. The people of Afghanistan are making great strides, but our work is not done yet. Instead of backing down, we need to push ahead and continue to give Afghans the tools they need to create a more peaceful country. We are hoping that we can count on you to help continue our work.
The women are beginning to see that through education they can have a better life, and are insisting on educating their children. They are taking charge of their health, and we are seeing more and more women requesting workshops on pre-natal issues as well as reproductive health. AIL is encouraged to see so many Afghan women looking forward to a brighter future and is planning to be there to help the women lead the way to the Afghanistan of their dreams.
Thank you for all you have contributed towards AIL’s goal of educating the women and children of Afghanistan. While the conditions in Afghanistan are still challenging, AIL is seeing positive changes in the lives of those Afghans that it works with.
This year, AIL has had many exciting successes. Some of these include:
- The expectant mothers workshops continue to be incredibly successful. To date, 413 women have participated in the workshops, 206 of whom were pregnant women, and 207 were their birth helpers. Of these, 118 reported back to AIL about their births and there was only stillbirth. This result is far below Afghanistan’s 10.3% infant mortality rate. While the purpose of this workshop was to educate women so that they could have a safer home birth, AIL has found that most women choose to deliver at a clinic after attending the workshop, which is unique in Afghanistan where most women will deliver at home.
- AIL piloted a mobile literacy program where two classes of female students were given cell phones and taught to use them to supplement their learning in literacy classes. These girls were able to advance through three levels of literacy classes in only five months, a feat which normally takes 18 months.
- AIL hosted a love and forgiveness conference in Afghanistan featuring the poetry of Rumi. This conference was so well received that AIL is now developing smaller workshops based on the conference. Many who heard about the conference are asking for AIL to host workshops on the subject in their village. AIL sees the impact that these workshops are having on the people of Afghanistan, especially the young people, and is excited to spread the message of love and forgiveness further.
- AIL has received a donation from a corporate donor that has allowed us to begin teaching more advanced computer classes along with English classes. If the students understand English, they are enrolled in the computer class. If their English is not advanced enough, the students are enrolled in classes which will give them the skills they need to take the computer classes. So far this year, 758 students have participated in these new classes, 504 of whom were women.
Through August 2012 over 11,155 Afghans have attended classes in AIL’s schools and centers in Afghanistan and Pakistan, 7503 of whom were women. AIL has provided workshops on topics such as leadership, health and human rights to 1147 Afghan women and girls. 579 female teachers have been trained in workshops offered by AIL. 101,597 patients have been treated in AIL’s clinics, the majority of whom are women and children. At these same clinics, 89,678 Afghans received health education through information at the clinics, workshops and information from Community Health Workers.
AIL continues to offer education and health care to Afghan women and girls in a culturally sensitive manner. With your support, AIL is looking forward to being able to continue offering new and innovative programs to continue improving the lives of the women and girls of Afghanistan.
Don’t forget! The holidays are a great time to share your passion for AIL and the great work that they do! GlobalGiving offers gift certificates which can be used to donate to AIL’s projects. Also, beginning December 1st, the initial donation made by recurring donors will be matched 100% by GlobalGiving. There is only $25,000 available in matching funds, so help AIL take advantage of this opportunity early!
We at AIL wish to sincerely thank you for your donations to this important project. We have nearly reached our fundraising goal of $200,000. Due to ongoing needs in Afghanistan, we have decided to raise our goal to $300,000. This additional amount will help us to close our projected budget shortfall over the next 18 months. These additional funds will help us to continue the high quality training, education and healthcare of women that have become AIL’s trademark.
AIL’s annual budget is approximately 1.3 million dollars, with 70% of that funding (approximately $910,000) going directly towards helping Afghan women and girls get the healthcare, education and training that they want and need. AIL will continue to use your donations to establish Women’s Learning Centers (WLC’s) where they are needed, continue funding classes at existing WLC’s, train teachers who can open students minds and provide quality healthcare to those in need.
The situation for women in Afghanistan is improving. More women and girls have access to education, they are beginning to enter high school and some are continuing their education into college. Their minds are opening and they are becoming leaders in their families and communities. So far in 2012, AIL has served 959,701 Afghans, approximately 70% of whom are women. With your help, we look forward to helping many more.
Since its beginning, AIL has taken great pains to train our teachers to instruct students using techniques which help the students truly understand their subject instead of just learning by rote. When you speak to the students of these teachers, you can hear that this training is working. Maisam is a 13 year old student at a high school near one of AIL’s rural centers. In addition to her regular school schedule, she is attending the center’s classes in English and Math. Maisam says, “I began taking classes and because of my teacher’s efforts I can now solve very difficult questions and help my friends, sisters and brothers. Before beginning classes at the center, I didn’t know even one word of English. Now I can speak English and it is all due to the efforts of my teacher. I am very thankful to AIL and to my teachers.”
Thank you for your donations, which make the training of our wonderful teachers possible, and help create a brighter future for girls like Maisam!
This is the story of a student at the Sar Asia Center in Herat:
I am 22 years old. Seven years ago, I came to this Center and studied sewing. I learned how to sew and the cutting of clothes. Fortunately, I now have a daily income from sewing clothes. I can earn 10 dollars per day and my family’s expenditures are 7 dollars every day. I can save three dollars each day. In one year I can save 1100 dollars. This is how I am helping my family. I continue to come to the Center to attend literacy and Arabic classes. I am now in the fourth level of literacy. When I started here, my family did not like the idea, but now they respect me and encourage me. Recently, I enrolled my mother in literacy classes so that she may also learn.
These kinds of stories touch my heart and give me hope for all women in Afghanistan. The idea that she is saving money for her future makes me smile and shows me that AIL is helping people lead better lives.
Please remember that Wednesday, June 13th (beginning at 12:01 AM EST) is a Bonus Day through Global Giving. Donations received that day will be provided a matching gift of 30, 40 or 50 percent.
Since 1995, the Afghan Institute of Learning (AIL) has been helping Afghans lift themselves above the devastation of war by providing education, training, health care, and health education. AIL’s approach is to interlink health and education programs, like building blocks that together form a whole structure. While delivering these basic services AIL has also been able to promote critical thinking skills and model and teach human rights, women’s rights, peace, democracy, and leadership. With new skills and information, Afghans are becoming empowered and hopeful. Through your financial support, you have been a part of these seeds of systemic change.
Through the natural progression that exists when people begin to think for themselves, AIL often receives requests from Afghans who want to find ways to work together to promote love, understanding, and forgiveness to their people in order to return to a peaceful way of life; the way of their country’s history. Supported by Fetzer Institute, AIL is responding to these requests by holding an International Conference on Love and Forgiveness this Spring that will be shared throughout the country and internationally via film. This conference will focus on the study of Afghan poets and musicians, particularly the work of Mawlana (Rumi). Participating in the conference will be poets, writers, Sufis and government representatives from all parts of Afghanistan and the world.
Joining the Conference, in person, or via film or writings, are:
AIL invites you to join Afghans in thought and through your own study of music and poetry that brings us all closer to the peaceful world we endeavor to achieve.
In our last report, I mentioned AIL’s Leadership seminars being in high demand. The results that we are seeing from these seminars are astounding. The women who are attending are not only improving their own lives, but also working to improve their neighbors and communities. Here is an example:
“I am now a woman with high education. I have many economic problems, but I couldn’t work out of home to earn anything. The low salary of my husband couldn’t solve our problems. After joining the Leadership Workshop, I learned that I have to be aware of my abilities. I should attend some courses in order to provide services to both my family and my people. One of the participants in Leadership Workshop guided me to attend a Sewing Course so I attended the course and learned sewing. I sewed cloth and sold it. With my earnings I could buy a sewing machine. Then I established a sewing course. I taught some students who were mostly illiterate girls and women. Now all of them are intelligent and talented tailors and spend their life sewing and earning respectfully.”
It is so exciting to watch the expansion of women’s thoughts in
Afghanistan. By offering an education to them, their thirst for
knowledge just keeps growing. At every village that AIL is invited
into to start a program or offer a workshop, we see the women
requesting more and more information. They consistently ask for other
workshops and seminars to be made available to them – and to others in
It appears that once you offer a person a chance to become literate –
they just want to continue learning. These women in the AIL learning
centers request more classes including skill classes such as sewing,
computers, calligraphy, painting, drawing – and subject classes such
as English, science and math. In addition, as word spreads about
leadership seminars, AIL receives more and more requests to offer
their programs in more communities. These women want to improve their
lives and their communities and see their Country flourish.
Thank you for supporting these women!
The main focus of the Afghan Institute of Learning is to educate and provide health care and health education to women and children in order to promote a healthy, promising, bright and peaceful society. Students at the AIL Learning Centers know that continuing their education is important for their own future and for the future of their communities, and they are filled with hope and dreams of a better tomorrow. Pari, a student at the Zarghoona Ana Learning Center believes that she will continue her education. She presently takes classes in literacy and sewing. She dreams that she will one day become a great tailor and be in a position to do great things for her people. She hopes to then teach others how to sew so that they too will be able to prosper.
Another AIL Project, “Transform Lives of 70,000 Afghan Adolescent Girls” has been chosen to be part of the Girl Effect Challenge, which runs from October 15 through November 15, 2011. Approximately 60 projects have been included in this challenge. The top six projects with the highest number of unique donations will become part of the Girl Effect Fund for one year and each is expected to earn an additional $25,000. Please check out our project #8791, and thank you for your generous support of our programs!
Azada, is one Afghan woman who says she is thankful for the AIL Learning Centers. She said, “I had an illiterate family. My husband and my grandmother had very old ideas. One day, I asked my husband if it is possible for me to go to a learning center. Unfortunately, my husband was very harsh, and he prevented me from going to school. I repeatedly asked my husband, and finally, he said to me you can go join a course with all of the children. My oldest child was 14, the next 13 and the third was 6. We all went to the center and registered ourselves for different classes. My children and I are now literate. Four people from one family became literate, which shows the impact of AIL activities. They save the lives of families.”
Living in the midst of war, Afghans are looking for opportunities to live life free of daily conflict. In 2010, AIL implemented peace education workshops after hearing requests by people who attended AIL’s leadership workshops which have a peace component. There were 6 peace workshops held for 251 (81% female) participants. 2010 was also an election year in Afghanistan so AIL responded with election related workshops.
These trainings offer quality knowledge to teachers and community members, who in turn impact their students and families well beyond the classroom and the subjects they were taught. The ability for teachers and students to think critically, to ask questions, and to discuss ideas is the foundation for building a new future for Afghanistan.
Five Reasons to Celebrate
The year 2010 has been one of many challenges for people throughout the world. In Afghanistan, insecurity, violence, and poverty continue to threaten communities. But the people of Afghanistan are strong and hopeful, and they are working hard to overcome these challenges. At the Afghan Institute of Learning (AIL), we see it every day. You can help Afghans, particularly women and children, to create a better future for themselves and their families with a contribution to AIL through Global Giving.
Looking back upon the year, what we focus on are our reasons to celebrate.
In fact, you make all of the other reasons to celebrate possible. Here is the rest of AIL’s top five reasons to celebrate in 2010:
Your renewed support will help AIL and the Afghan people start 2011 with renewed hope. If you have not yet renewed your support for AIL, please donate today and tell a friend. Thank you and best wishes.
Grateful and Undaunted
At this time of year, we are reminded of our many blessings and how the people in our lives enrich us and bring joy to every day. All of us at the Afghan Institute of Learning (AIL) are especially grateful to you, for your generous support of our efforts to help the people of Afghanistan overcome many challenges. Through education, teacher training, health care programs, and emergency assistance, as one woman put it, “… AIL is like an experienced mother in our society who is here to get more information to the women of Afghanistan.” We are able to serve that vital role – for the women, men, and children of Afghanistan – because of your contribution. Thank you!
As you celebrate this Holiday Season and anticipate the approach of the New Year, we hope that you will think of us again and make another donation to help ensure AIL is able to continue our work. You have most likely heard that Afghanistan continues to suffer terrible insecurity and poverty. But AIL is undaunted by the headlines because we know that the people of Afghanistan are working hard every day to improve their lives and the future of their country. Together with the people of Afghanistan, we are confident because we know that people like you believe in us and stand by us.
When you make your donation, check out the Tribute Card and Gift Card options – and please tell a friend about AIL and encourage them to make a donation too. As AIL’s founder and executive director, Dr. Sakena Yacoobi has said, “Reach out to others and give a gift to yourself.”
No matter what our circumstances today, when we believe in each other and work together, we can be assured that tomorrow will be better. Seasons Greetings and thank you again.
AIL Executive Director
Zahra, a literacy student in one of AIL’s women’s learning centers, explains how the center has empowered and helped her:
“I have two children and came from an uneducated family. Before coming to Herat province, I had full information about AIL actually I knew about AIL and AIL services When we came to Herat province, our relatives introduced me to the Afghan Institute of Learning. Now I am a student in this center for literacy class I am very happy I can read the newspaper and books. Now I can help my children who are in the first position in their classes. I am thankful for the professor Sakena Yacoobi that helps the penurious people of Afghanistan.
The Afghan Institute of Learning currently supports 24 education learning centers in Afghanistan and Pakistan. These centers have an enormous impact on the lives of Afghan women and give them the means to support themselves and their families. Here is a story that demonstrates how AIL classes impact women: “My name is Fatima. I am 17 years old and study in class 3 of literacy class. I am a girl who could not get an education due to my family’s strictness. I could not read and write before getting admission in Literacy class. I wished to read and write like thousands of girls. Now my wish has become true by the grace of Allah. Now I can read even magazines and books.” Another girl reports “My name is Ruqia and I study in the Macramé class. My father has a cart in Kote Sangee so that we can get education. I am 16 years old and study in class 8. One year I met some women and girls going this women’s learning center, and I asked them about the center. I became interested and got admission in the Macramé class. Now I am able to make different kinds of table sheets and decoration pieces. When I make and sell them, I make money to help my aged and weak father.”
“Reach out to others and give a gift to yourself.”
Sakena Yacoobi, founder and executive director of the Afghan Institute of Learning, urged the advanced degree graduates of Santa Clara University, Santa Clara, California to “reach out to others and give a gift to yourself” in the process in her 2010 Commencement speech. She has been a model of such action since 1995. Under her leadership, the Afghan Institute of Learning (AIL) has delivered education and health services to over 7.1 million Afghan women, children and men. In appreciation of her work, SCU honored her with an honorary Doctor of Education Honoris Causa degree.
“Health and literacy are keys to human rights, empowerment and self sufficiency,” says Dr Yacoobi, Mann Award winner.
Less than a week later, Dr. Yacoobi was at the Global Health Conference in Washington, DC to receive the 2010 Jonathan Mann Award for Global Health and Human Rights established to honor the late Jonathan Mann and to call attention to the vital links between health and human rights. The Award is bestowed annually on an individual who shows an overwhelming commitment to health and human rights, often at great personal danger.
Sakena Yacoobi considers access to health care and education as human rights and takes a holistic approach to advancing health and human rights, particularly for women. Growing up in Afghanistan, Dr. Yacoobi saw firsthand the damage that inequity and a lack of education and lack of access to health care can inflict upon women and children. After receiving her undergraduate and masters degree in health in the U.S., she returned to help her fellow countrywomen. As the Taliban were closing schools for women and girls in Afghanistan, Dr. Yacoobi founded the Afghan Institute of Learning (AIL) in 1995 to fight oppressive traditions that left women uneducated and put their lives at risk.
Dr. Yacoobi and AIL believe that “all Afghan women can be catalysts for change in Afghanistan. With an education that teaches them how to think and to educate others, as well as an awareness of their human rights, women can create a better future for all Afghans… we know that educated women will educate families, communities, and the nation to bring lasting peace.” And the same is true for health. Health education is integral to all of AIL’s activities, as knowledge about health empowers individuals to care for themselves and their families.
Believing that access to education is a basic human right that should be available to all women and girls, AIL began by providing literacy, primary and secondary education, university classes, and teacher training for women across Afghanistan. AIL pioneered the concept of Women’s Learning Centers in Afghanistan, which teach literacy, health education, human rights education, religious study, and income-generating skills. AIL was the first organization to offer human rights and leadership training to Afghan women. AIL has integrated health programs into its work and now operates seven clinics that provide prenatal care, safe delivery, well-baby care, immunizations, and primary-care services. AIL also operates mobile medical outreach campaigns, trains and supports community health workers, and developed a nurse/midwife/health educator course that graduates some of the most highly sought-after healthcare providers in Afghanistan.
AIL currently serves 350,000 women and children each year in Afghanistan and Pakistan and has provided education, training and health services to over 7.1 million Afghans since 1995. AIL is run by women and operated by women: of its 480 employees, more than 70% are women.
Every student in every one of AIL’s Women’s Learning Center s, every patient in AIL’s seven health clinics, and every family served through AIL’s Community Health Worker program receives basic health education along with health services and has opportunities to receive culturally sensitive additional “healthy families” training. AIL also provides 2-5 day workshops in reproductive health, HIV/AIDS, self immolation (rarely done by others for security reasons) and general health. This program targets young women, ages 10-25 years old, so that they have the knowledge they need early enough to prevent the health problems of their predecessors.
Dr. Yacoobi’s approach to health and human rights is changing the culture of Afghanistan. Social dynamics have improved among families and neighbors as a result of the contributions healthy and educated girls and women make in their homes and communities. Under some of the most difficult circumstances imaginable, Dr. Yacoobi is rebuilding family cohesion and a culture that respects the rights of each individual.
Though at times weary from the many demands put upon her, Sakena has no plans to slow down. “There is so much that needs to be done to help my people,” she says. “I have deep hope for Afghanistan, and I am proud of the women who get up in the morning, say goodbye to their family, and go to work… go to learning… because they know that they must learn. The only way they can stop problems is to learn. They are learning, and they are not afraid.”
Dr. Yacoobi’s vision is to transform the way that Afghans regard human rights for women and for all Afghans. She firmly believes that when the war is over, the Afghan people will be self-sufficient and a people who respect everyone’s rights.
We’d like to share some great news with you that will give you a better understanding of our project and the work we do in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Through the generosity of the Skoll Foundation, a timely video was produced about life in Afghanistan and the work AIL is doing to make a difference. The film producer and crew did a beautiful job capturing the essence of the best of the Afghan people, and the struggles they work with to achieve a better life. This film is now on YouTube, and it will be the best seven minutes you spend today. Moderated by Sakena Yacoobi, AIL’s executive director, this video offers a true taste of Afghanistan. Here’s the link to view it: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E7t1Xu_MwHg We are also adding this as a permanent link to this project for future viewing. Your donation makes a precious impact on the lives of Afghan men, women and children. We thank you for your past support, and encourage you to forward this message to those who can help to continue this important work.
A reminder: June 16 is a special Global Giving Matching Day! - GlobalGiving will be matching all donations up to $1,000 per donor per project for this project at a 50% match. If you could like to donate again to our project, your donation will go further on June 16th. Thank you for your support….
In 2009, the Afghan Institute of Learning supported 28 learning centers in Herat, Mazar, Bamiyan and Kabul, Afghanistan and in Peshawar, Pakistan. Many centers previously supported have successfully met their goals or gone on to become self sufficient- the end goal that AIL strives for. Our supported centers served a total of 22,765 Afghan women, men and children in classes ranging from pre-school to university students. These centers have a huge impact on the lives of our students, since these Afghans have no other alternatives for receiving a quality education. Here is a story that demonstrates how AIL classes impact women: “I liked the beauty parlor class, and I got admitted to this course. Since I started learning this skill, I have found many friends in the center and the community. I’m able to find out what kind of make-up and hairstyle they like to have. I graduated from this course and started my own business. Day by day I learn more and increase my skill. Now, I help many poor women by doing their hair dressing and make-up. This skill brings me a good income in my community. I can buy the tools and equipments I need for my beautician shop, and I can provide better service for my people. I also help my family with my income- this is all because of the AIL center.” Other AIL Accomplishments in 2009 included: • AIL trained over 1,800 Afghan teachers in pedagogy subjects, leadership, human rights, and school health. These teachers went to their classes and directly impacted over 500,000 students teaching these important subjects. • Nearly 23,000 students (primarily women and children) attended classes at AIL educational learning centers. • Over 362,000 Afghans received medical treatment and health education from AIL’s 6 health clinics and community health worker program. • In January 2010, AIL expanded humanitarian aid efforts with the harsh winter and reached out to 22 families in need. AIL staff delivered to each family quantities of rice, cooking oil and tea. Most heads of the family were widows with children from Herat, and were recommended by community members. • In February 2010, flooding in the Enjil district of Herat destroyed many family homes, and AIL responded with a concerted effort of initial food aid. Reminder: On March 16, 2010, GlobalGiving will be matching all donations made to any project on www.globalgiving.org by 30% (up to $1,000 per person)! If you could like to donate again to our project, your donation will go further on March 16th!!!
Dear donors to the ‘Afghan Institute of Learning Empowers Afghan Women’:
We want to sincerely thank you for your many donations to this important project in Afghanistan. Our original goal was to reach $100,000.00, and we are nearly at that goal. However, due to the ongoing needs in Afghanistan, there is a still critical demand to offer education and health choices for Afghan women. Giving these women the opportunity to become literate, remain healthy, get an education and learn skills to make a living is essential for a strong family and community.
We have increased our funding goal to $200,000.00 to address this ongoing need. The Afghan Institute of Learning and Creating Hope International have used your donated funds to establish and continue educational and health classes in our educational learning centers. Students are learning to read and have gone on to other subjects such as math, science, and computer technology. Women are learning skills like tailoring to help their families and earn an income. In all our classes we also discuss human rights, democratic principles and peace. We continue to provide health services to women and children in our health clinics. Your donations have, and will, continue to empower Afghan women, who sincerely appreciate this chance to improve and grow in their daily lives.
Thank you again for all your support.
Afghanistan is in the news a lot these days. As a donor to a project in Afghanistan, you may be wondering if change is happening, and if your donation really makes any difference. Following is a message from Dr. Sakena Yacoobi that answers your questions. It’s part of our annual newsletter, where we also share progress reports from several areas, and the impact AIL’s work is having in Afghan lives. This newsletter is below in a PDF format; we invite you to click on it and read ALL the details……
From Sakena Yacoobi: First, I want to thank all of you for supporting the work of the Afghan Institute of Learning (AIL). Your support is so important. Yes, the funds you send help us to bring education and health to so many Afghan women and children. But, more importantly, in this time of increasing violence and insecurity in Afghanistan, your support helps Afghans to know that they are not forgotten. It gives ordinary Afghan women, men and children the courage to keep studying, to keep going to clinics and to keep working for peace.
Today you probably hear that Afghanistan is a place of war, terrorist bombings, burning of schools, kidnapping, drugs and all kinds of other horrible things. And it is true that in every province of Afghanistan, including the capitol, every single day, these kinds of things are happening. But what you might not hear in your news is that everyday many women, men and children of Afghanistan get up in the morning….. say goodbye to their family…..and go to work….. go to schools and centers ….. go to trainings……because they know that they must be educated. They know that the only way they can stop these problems is to be educated. So they are learning, they are teaching and they are not afraid.
And when there is no electricity or no clean water or no school or no road or no job and there is no help from the national government or the international agencies, Afghans, particularly women, are joining together in community or with their local officials to find ways to solve their own problems. And, with your help, AIL is helping them to do this. I want to let you know that as dark as it seems to be in Afghanistan now, much is happening. Afghans, themselves, are changing. They are educating themselves; they are making sure that their children are educated; they are finding new ways to solve their problems. I would ask you to walk with us a little further on our journey towards peace.
TO READ the rest of our annual newsletter, please click on the PDF link below and it will open for your inspection-
Thank you for your support. Your desire to make a difference in this world has made a difference, and we are so thankful that Afghan people have had their lives changed with your help.
We wanted to share with you a very special opportunity to give more than 100% from November 10 through December 1st. Please share this with those you know who care. During this time, we are privileged to receive additional matching funds from your donation through Global Giving of at least 30%. The need is still great. Afghanistan struggles to become a country of strength and stability.
Here are 3 stories of women who have found the power within their lives:
Khalida returned from Iran a few years ago. She faced many problems in Afghanistan, like lack of a job, because she was illiterate. Fortunately, she was introduced to the AIL center by one of her friends. Her first priority was to be literate and she started the literacy class. After she completed the 6th grade level, she got admitted in the embroidery class because she wanted to learn a skill so she can have an income to help her family. She learned this skill too, and graduated from the course. Right now she works at this center as the trainer of embroidery. She is so happy because she teaches other women there to be self sufficient. She added that AIL changed her life, and she would like to thank all the AIL staff because of their good work for the community. Another woman said “My uncle forced my cousin to sit at home and not go to school because the situation in Afghanistan is not good and girls are for housework. He believed girls do not have the right to be educated and it’s shaming for them. After I took an AIL workshop, I got up my courage and I went to my uncle’s house to talk with him. I made him agree that education is important. Now, after two years, my cousin has joined the school and she is very happy.” Says Ghorsana, “During the war in Afghanistan we went to Pakistan, where we had a very bad life. I was at home and my husband was selling water. I joined a sewing course and I finished the course successfully. I then got a sewing machine and started a sewing course at home for other Afghan refugees. One of my students had a bit of money, so she bought two other sewing machines for students to work on. At night I sewed clothes for people, and during the day I had sewing classes. Slowly my life became good. When we came back to Kabul, my husband and I got our previous jobs back and now we are living happily. I empowered myself and also many of my students are sewing and financially covering the needs of their families. I am happy that I had a good vision.”
There's a new focus on women worldwide. The New York Times magazine dedicated their entire issue one week in August on women in the developing world. Of particular focus was a newly launched book written by the well-known Pulitzer winning couple Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl DuWunn titled: "Half The Sky: Turning Oppression Into Opportunity for Women Worldwide". The press focus on this timely book is significant- from reviews in Harvard and People magazine, to upcoming segments on shows like "The Today Show", the time has come for women and their issues worldwide to be in the spotlight.
Sakena Yacoobi and her organization the Afghan Institute of Learning is one of the topics in Chapter Nine of the book. Dr. Yacoobi grew up in Herat, Afghanistan and then came to the United States to study at the University of the Pacific and Loma Linda University. Concerned about the condition of her people back in Afghanistan, Sakena returned to Pakistan to work in Afghan refugee camps and later went to Afghanistan. Although the Taliban forbade girls from getting an education in Afghanistan, Sakena was instrumental in establishing a string of secret girls schools with community support.
Today, the Afghan Institute of Learning has multiple education programs in Pakistan and in seven provinces of Afghanistan. There are educational learning centers for women and children, preschool programs, post-secondary institutes, a university, and teacher training programs. In addition, AIL has an in-depth program of health education and treatment for women and small children. Since its start in 1995, AIL has trained nearly 16,000 teachers and over 3.5 million women and children have received a quality education. With the health programs included, AIL has directly impacted over 6.7 million Afghans.
Sakena has been and continues to be recognized for her work. Her philosophy is to develop a program from the grass-roots level so the community members are an integral part of the process. State Kristof and DuWunn in their book Half The Sky- "American organizations would have accomplished much more if they had financed and supported Sakena, rather than dispatching their own representatives to Kabul...The best role for Americans who want to help Muslim women isn't holding the microphone at the front of the rally, but writing the checks and carrying the bags in the back."
Dr. Yacoobi and the work of the Afghan Institute of Learning have been supported by multiple grantors and organizations over the years. "I wish to thank everyone who has helped in this important work," states Sakena. "I want to share with each and every contributor the joy of seeing a young woman, who has a renewed interest in life because she can now read, or the happiness of a widow who has learned a skill that will allow her to support her children.
"We now have children who are healthy because of inoculations, and women who did not die during childbirth who have happy, healthy babies. My wish is that these small steps that allow awareness and growth in families will lead to the growth of our country."
Recently, we spoke with Sakena, and she has this message to all the supporters of AIL:
"It is an honor to be included in Nicholas' and Sheryl's book Half The Sky. So many foundations and individuals have contributed to the work that the Afghan Institute of Learning has been able to do in Afghanistan.
"From the bottom of my heart I want to thank all who have understood the plight of Afghan women and children, and have reached out with compassionate, caring support.
"May God reward your generosity......."
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 and received skills training in AIL schools, centers and post-secondary programs. 27, 619 Afghans (more than 70% female) have received teacher training or capacity-building training. AIL has supported 13 clinics serving 998,088 patients and providing health education to 1,520,374 women and children. Overall 6,778,026 Afghan lives have been directly impacted by AIL programs.
With the help of your donations, during the first 6 months of 2009, AIL has been able to:
--Provide education to 7,864 women and girls. --Provide educational workshops to 1,343 women and girls. --Provided healthcare to 44,838 women and girls at AIL clinics.
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.”
A woman taking classes in AIL’s beautician courses shared her thoughts with the AIL staff. “One of my friends told me about the high quality of education you could receive at AIL’s center in our town. I liked the beauty parlor, and was admitted to this course. Since I started learning this skill, I have made many friends at the center and in my community. Besides just making friends, I am also learning about what kind of make-up and hairstyles different women like to have. After graduating from the beautician course, I opened my own business. Day by day, I become even more interested in my skill and began my business by doing hair and make-up for poor women for free. This skill commands a good income in my community and I have been able to buy the necessary tools and equipment to make my beauty parlor the best it can be. I am able to help my family with my income and this is all because of the AIL center. I really appreciate AIL providing life changing opportunities for women and girls.”
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.
Some of the stories AIL hears from women are about little things that make a big difference for the individual woman. We have one such example from a woman studying literacy in one of AIL’s centers. When asked if she had a particularly happy memory that came from learning to read, she replied, “Yes. Before I would go places and could not read anything, but now I can. I went to the doctor with my sister-in-law and I read the name of the doctor for her. There was a woman there who could not read and asked me if I knew which doctor was the heart doctor. I read the board with the names of the doctors until I found the heart doctor and guided the woman to the correct doctor. She prayed for me. I was very happy and it is an unforgettable memory for me.”
In 2008 the Afghan Institute of Learning supported 46 learning centers in Herat, Mazar, Bamiyan and Kabul, Afghanistan and in Peshawar, Pakistan. These centers served a total of 23,750 Afghan women, men and children in classes ranging from pre-school to university students. These centers have had a huge impact on the lives of the students since the students have no other alternatives for receiving a quality education.
During 2008, one of AIL's WLC's reached a milestone-- its first class of girls studying in the 9th grade. This is a truly remarkable story as this group of initially illiterate girls from a very traditional, rural, conservative area in Afghanistan began studying with AIL 7 years ago and have continued their studies until now.. Here is one of the girl's stories: "I am from a poor and narrow-minded family that does not allow their daughters to go outside the home to study. My father has always told me that he did not have enough money to pay the fees to send me to school; he barely had enough money to feed me and pay our rent. Besides, he said, if he allowed me to go to school my relatives and neighbors would say that he was not zealous enough since no one allows their daughters to go to school. One day my neighbor told me that there was a center that teaches women and girls and that you can learn a great deal from this school without paying any fees. At first I was really excited until I realized that I was 13 and might have sit in a lower class with younger students. When I was finally allowed to go to the center, I saw that many older women and girls were attending the school. Now I am happy because I can read, and write. I pray 5 times a day to those who open centers like this for women and older girls."
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.”
From January to June of 2008 the Afghan Institute of Learning (AIL) has supported 37 Educational Learning Centers (ELC’s) and Women’s Learning Center’s (WLC’s) in 5 provinces of Afghanistan and in Peshawar, Pakistan serving 11,530 Afghan men, women and children. 65% of those served were female. The level of class run by the center varies from pre-school to university students.
AIL has also supported 3 health clinics in Herat and Kabul, Afghanistan. These three clinics have seen 63,345 patients during the first 6 months of 2008, the majority of whom are women and children. 9,347 of those seen were reproductive health patients. The clinic vaccinated 17,977 women and children during the first 6 months of 2008. The clinics also provide health education seminars and workshops to women. From January to June 2008 31,563 women have taken part in health education workshops.
Many of the women that take classes from AIL’s ELC’s and WLC’s do so in order to learn to read or write, support their family or to learn skills that will help them to acquire a job.
Following is a story from a 28 year old women who graduated from one of AIL’s tailoring classes that shows the value of not only the tailoring program, but the center’s as a whole:
“When I was in Iran 2 years ago, I was concerned about what will happen to me when I return to my country. Would I be able to go in school or some educational center to be an educated person like Iranians? But when we came back to our country and moved to this village, after a short time, I found the AIL center and lots of women going and coming from this center. I felt that it is the best place for the improvement of women who want to learn some thing. I went there and enrolled in literacy, tailoring and holy Quran classes. I have attended these three classes in one center and was very happy because every day, I met at least 400 women from my community. And the quality of this center was very good because the teachers were updated by AIL through providing seminars and training. So the methods they taught were the best and students learned very fast. Today after 2 years, I have completed the 5th grade of literacy, Holy Quran and the sewing course. I feel I am very lucky to have this opportunity to learn these all things and now I can work to support my family. I can read the magazine, newspaper and also I can help my children in their lessons and home work.”
A young girl named Parmila says, “I am really happy with the Women’s Learning Center that I attend. It is a good and safe educational environment for females. Before the establishment of this center here, the society of this area was against the girl's education. But fortunately the center has done a great deal to change their minds. My parents have not allowed me to go to school and it was very hard for me that my rights have not given to me. So when my parent saw that many women and girls go to the Women’s Learning Center without any problem and all the teachers there are female, they allowed me to go to this center. After some time they took another positive step and told me to get admission in the regular school too. Now I am in grade 7th and I understand if the Women’s Learning Center had not been established here, I and many other girls would remain illiterate people in the society. If that were to happen, this society would never change their mind regarding their girls’ education.”
Zareen a student in the literacy class said: “When I got engaged I was in 3rd class and when I got married I was just 16 years old after that my husband continued his education but his parents didn’t give me permission to continue my classes. I argued many times with my husband to get permission from your parents for me. After long time, they gave me permission to go and I went to Majoba Herawi center. Now I am in class 8th and I am very happy to be able to solve my and my family problems. Now my husband is in London and I can write letters to him. My mother in law says to me thanks to God you have become educated and can solve our family problems. Now all my husband’s family members take advice from me as an educated woman to help solve their problems.”
Here is the story of a woman who came to AIL’s clinic after struggling to become pregnant for 25 years: “Habiba came to the clinic 9 months ago; and said that she had amenorrhea. I referred her to the clinic laboratory for a pregnancy test. The result of lab was positive. I congratulated her but she was upset because 25 years ago she got married and had been pregnant 17 times but unfortunately all of them miscarried. I did not think that this pregnancy would be full term as before. Again I referred her to complete all the tests and fortunately all the results were normal. She had a stepdaughter. I give hope to her that this time she would have a safe delivery and her own baby. I advised her to have monthly visits at the clinic. She was given Healthy Mom and Ferfolic. When she passed the seventh month of pregnancy she suffered from hypertension and pedal edema. I referred her to the laboratory for urine analysis test. The result of her examination was proteinurea; I took management of her. Weekly she has come to the clinic for follow up; her blood pressure was under control. A night she was going to have delivery and her family took her to the hospital for delivery. She gave birth 25 years of marriage. Two days later she came to the clinic with her baby; she was very happy and appreciated me and services of the Imam Shish Nur clinic. I was thrilled to see her with her baby. It was one of my best memories. She said I can't believe that after all this time I have a child.”
The mission of the Afghan Institute of Learning (AIL) is to empower all Afghans who are vulnerable and in need by expanding their education and health opportunities and by fostering self-reliance and community participation. AIL takes a holistic approach to its work with the goal of developing the overall health and education capacity of Afghan individuals and communities.
Because of the years of war, the educational system in Afghanistan has greatly deteriorated. The literacy rate is one of the lowest in the world with an estimated 31% of Afghan males and 15% of Afghan females literate. The situation is particularly acute for women and girls because of the banning of public education for females under the Taliban. Many teenage girls and boys and women were either not allowed to attend schools or had no opportunity to attend schools because of the fighting in Afghanistan. Many of the boys who went to school had a very poor education.
Faced with overwhelming needs from all sectors of the society, the Afghan government has opened schools and millions of children have now begun to continue their education. However, many older girls and boys, married girls and women are not allowed in the schools because of their age or their marital status.
To meet the educational needs of these older girls and boys and married women and in response to the requests of Afghan women, community leaders, and the Afghan government, AIL opened Women’s Learning Centers (WLCs) for women and girls and then Educational Learning Centers (ELCs) for females and males in Afghanistan. AIL was the first NGO to start Women’s Learning Centers (WLCs) in refugee camps in 2002 and soon after opened its first Educational Learning Centers (ELCs) in Afghanistan. WLCs and ELCs take a holistic approach and are designed to meet the multiple needs of Afghan women, girls and boys. Through the WLCs and ELCs that AIL supports, AIL offers preschool through university-level classes and trains teachers and administrators. In each of its centers, AIL also offers health and peace education and workshops that train women and older girls and boys to be leaders and to advocate for their basic human rights. The subjects of AIL center fast track classes presently include literacy (which includes reading, writing and math), sewing/tailoring, carpet weaving, English, computer, knitting, beautician training, math, chemistry, algebra, physics, trigonometry, Dari, Pushto, embroidery, calligraphy, art and Arabic. The goals of the students vary. Some students just want to learn to read and write. Others want to learn a skill so that they can earn money or make clothes for their family. Still others want to improve their knowledge of various subjects or learn English or computer skills to increase their chances of getting a job. Although the ages of students range from 8-65, about 70% of the students are between 15 and 25 and more than 75% of the students are between 10 and 25. Overall, 60% of the students are female. This, of course, varies with each new class and from center to center.
WLCs and ELCs are housed in homes in the community where the WLC/ELC is located. The community either donates the facility or rent is paid for use of the facility. Teachers come from the community. The women in the community decide if they want to meet in the morning or the afternoon or in both the morning or afternoon. Each class meets for an hour daily from Saturday through Thursday except for holidays. Although there are a few classes that have chairs and tables, most classes have a floor covering and a blackboard and other equipment pertinent to the class being taught (sewing machines, looms, etc.) and the students sit on the floor. Incorporated into the curriculum of each class is material on human rights, health and peace. The duration of the class varies depending on the subject. Beginning literacy, sewing, knitting and beautician classes are for 6 months. The duration of upper level classes in literacy depends on how fast the students study. The duration of other classes vary and, again, students can proceed at their own speed. Arabic classes usually require 8 months to 3 years. Carpet weaving usually requires 7 months to one year. It takes 5 to 6 months to finish a complete computer program—basic to advanced. One computer course usually takes 3 months. It takes 6 months to one year to complete calligraphy. Math classes are on-going and individualized to the students needs. Each level of English class is for 2½ to 3 months.
All of the classes are what AIL calls “fast track” classes. AIL had developed “fast track” classes during the time of the Taliban when AIL supported 80 underground home schools for over 3,000 girls in Afghanistan. Because the classes were multi-grade and because so many students were already behind their grade level, AIL developed a program whereby the students could study at their own pace. With the fall of the Taliban, most students wanted to learn as fast as possible. Thus, the majority of the educational classes offered through AIL WLCs and ELCs are “fast track” classes. What this means is that students study at a faster pace and greater intensity than students would in a regular school setting. Thus, for example, a literacy student will finish the first grade material in 6 months rather than 9 or 12 months. The literacy student can then either go on to a higher level, study another subject, or take a school placement test and mainstream into a government school at the student’s age level. Likewise, students who are weak in a particular subject, like math, can take a math class at one of AIL’s centers and study on an accelerated basis. This may be the subject which is holding the student back from joining her age group. By taking this class, she can then “challenge” the grade, take a test and progress to the next grade level. Skills training classes, such as tailoring, carpet weaving, embroidery or beauty shop classes are also “fast track” classes.
AIL is presently supporting WLCs and ELCs, which provide fast track classes, at 38 locations in five provinces of Afghanistan and the North West Frontier Province of Pakistan. Through its centers, AIL now offers educational opportunities to 25,000 Afghan women and children annually. Additionally, basic health services are available to many center participants through AIL health clinics. Services include medical examinations, midwifery and nursing services, vaccinations, and health education about hygiene and the proper use of medicine. Of AIL’s 38 educational centers, 33 are Community-Based Organizations (CBOs). If a center is a CBO, it means that AIL did not actually start the center. Rather, the community decided that it needed a center, found a location, identified teachers and students and subjects that older girls and boys and women in their community wanted to study. The community members then came to AIL and asked for support for their center. AIL requires community participation from every project that it has. In the case of WLCs and ELCs, the community will either provide the building for the center or charge fees to the center to cover the costs. The overall security and running of the center is in the hands of the community.
AIL also places a great emphasis on training both teachers and administrators and has continued to expand its training programs. In addition to the training that AIL does for the government and NGOs, AIL trains all of the teachers and administrators in its centers. AIL has now trained over 12,000 teachers in pedagogy and subject matter seminars. AIL is continuing to offer its leadership and human rights seminars to women, government officials and NGO leaders and recently was asked to hold a training session for new members of parliament. Because of the need, AIL has developed new training material in management to build the capacity of government and NGO staff. In the last year, AIL has held management workshops for Ministry of Women’s Affairs staff in Kabul and Herat, for new parliamentarians, and for the staff of a number of NGOs and CBOs. The ultimate goal of the training for teachers is to improve the quality of education of the students and the goal of administrative training is to enable the community administrators to more effectively run their center and ultimately become self-sufficient.
Because AIL’s WLC/ELC program is a long term, holistic, capacity-building program, AIL continues to support centers until they have either reached their goals or become self-sufficient. Since it began this program, AIL has supported more than 100 centers. As centers become self-sufficient or close because needs have been met and as funding is available, AIL opens new centers.
AIL’s learning centers have been particularly important for Afghan women and girls. Often there are no girls schools in the communities where they live. Afghans are sometimes reluctant to send their females to schools and Afghan schools will not accept older girls or married women in beginning classes. AIL’s centers, because they are grassroots and started and run by the community have been very important for the education of Afghan females because families will allow their girls and women to go to these centers.
Presently, there are 6,713 women and girls studying in AIL centers.