Empowerment and enlightenment for women in Afghanistan

A society with an educated population will find the tools and agency in itself to flourish. That’s the belief that motivates the Canadian Women for Women in Afghanistan (CW4WAfghan), a non-profit organization, to work towards the attainment of universal education in Afghanistan.

For the past 15 years, Canadians in the organization have dedicated themselves to enlightening Canadian citizens on the state of human rights in Afghanistan and advocating for the realization and implementation of education as a solid foundation for social development. With over 13 chapters in the spread across the country, CW4WAfghan’s mission in essence is to enlighten Canadians, empower Afghan women and evolve the social landscape of Afghanistan.

“Our experience has been that it is not about Canadians being do-gooders and giving to charity and/or hand outs, but about working together in solidarity, as partners, with Afghans that defines global citizenship,” says Janice Eisenhaur, executive director of CW4WAfghan

Universal education as a tool and sustenance

Literacy – a tool for equal opportunities. | Photo courtesy of Lauren Oates

Literacy – a tool for equal opportunities. | Photo courtesy of Lauren Oates

Women and men in developing nations do not always receive equal opportunity to receive an education. Therein lies CW4WAfghan’s primary mission of providing an education for girls. Lauren Oates, program director of CW4WAfghan, says education is a very deliberate central focus of the organization.

“[Education’s] where we start – the right to education, the right to read, which opens the door to other rights. There is now a wealth of evidence from research demonstrating the link between women’s education and empowerment, as well as the status of women and things like state stability and economic growth,” she says.

The special status that education demands is a result of its compelling correlation to economic development.

“Research tells us that countries will not leave behind extreme poverty until they reach a national literacy rate of at least 80 per cent,” says Oates.

A developing country’s need for outside assistance becomes much less pressing if the local population is given access to developing mental skills and attaining knowledge in a variety of realms. Oates believes providing these opportunities can empower the citizens of Afghanistan to solve internal problems.

CW4WAfghan also acts as an educator in terms of overturning the perceived view that surrounds Afghanistan as an inherently backwards country.

“The public has a tendency to want to simplify the story, to make it all good or all bad, when the process of rebuilding a country is more nuanced: it’s a gradual, complex process with both good and bad co-existing,” says Oates.

CW4WAfghan’s work

In Afghanistan, the organization runs two programs, Investing in Basic Education and Afghanistan Reads! The former focuses on grades 1–12 and looks to provide equipment and resources that schools are in need of, such as textbooks and science labs.

Afghanistan Reads! focuses conversely on the out-of-school population and aims to educate adults or girls over the age of 15 who weren’t fortunate enough to receive public education. The program offers basic literacy classes, information regarding basic life skills as well as open access to community libraries for academic support. These programs reinforce the CW4WAfghan’s mandate of “[providing] the same rights we have in our society; to go school, to have a livelihood and to live in prosperity,” Oates says.

For more information on the organization, or any upcoming events visit www.cw4wafghan.ca