Ray of Hope

Light­ing the way for women in Afghanistan.

Southasia - - CONTENTS - By Faizan Us­mani

Afghanistan has one of the low­est lit­er­acy rates in the world, where more than 69 per cent of the adult pop­u­la­tion is un­able to read or write. The sit­u­a­tion is even more dis­mal for Afghan women, as about 83 per cent of them are to­tally il­lit­er­ate. With 70 girls in school for ev­ery 100 boys, such a high dif­fer­ence be­tween male and fe­male lit­er­acy rates in­di­cates a pro­found gen­der and ge­o­graph­i­cal gap, ac­cord­ing to UNESCO.

The Afghan cap­i­tal, Kabul has the high­est fe­male lit­er­acy rate of al­most 35 per cent, com­pared to the lit­er­acy rate among men in the cap­i­tal, which is 68 per cent. In the southern prov­inces, lit­er­acy among fe­males is as low as 1.6 per cent, while among males it is 45 per cent. The low­est male lit­er­acy rates are in Hel­mand, which is about 41 per cent.

Ac­cord­ing to UNICEF, an es­ti­mated 3.3 mil­lion girls go to school in Afghanistan. But around 3.3 mil­lion chil­dren, in­clud­ing girls, still don’t have ac­cess to pri­mary and sec­ondary ed­u­ca­tion in the coun­try. UNICEF re­veals only 28 per cent girls in ru­ral Afghanistan at­tend school, while over 50 per cent of the girls in ur­ban ar­eas get pri­mary ed­u­ca­tion.

Over­all, the rea­sons be­hind such low lit­er­acy lev­els in the fe­male pop­u­la­tion are many. A ma­jor­ity of Afghan girls don’t go to school and spend their time in man­ag­ing the house­hold. For Afghan women, it is against their cul­tural norm to step out of the home in pur­suit of ed­u­ca­tion, and in most cases, girls are not al­lowed by their fam­i­lies to at­tend school.

De­spite their will­ing­ness and fam­ily ap­proval, most of the girls in Afghanistan can­not go to schools owing to in­se­cu­rity and trav­el­ling is­sues. In re­mote ar­eas of Afghanistan par­tic­u­larly, there is a se­vere lack of schools, making it dif­fi­cult for girls to walk a long way to at­tend school on a reg­u­lar ba­sis. Other than the cul­tural bar­ri­ers, early mar­riages, as well as a lack of fe­male teach­ers are the other rea­sons. Due to a lack of san­i­ta­tion in schools, older girls don’t at­tend classes which of­ten leads to their drop­ping out.

In such a bleak sce­nario, Razia Jan ap­pears as a ray of hope for the ed­u­ca­tion­de­prived girls and women. A tire­less hu­man­i­tar­ian, Razia is the founder of Razia's Ray of Hope Foun­da­tion, which is a non­profit or­ga­ni­za­tion ded­i­cated to em­pow­er­ing young women through com­mu­nity- based ed­u­ca­tion.

The Ray of Hope Foun­da­tion is lo­cated at Deh Sabz, which is a small dis­trict sit­u­ated north­east of Kabul City. Razia be­lieves ed­u­ca­tion is key to bring­ing a pos­i­tive and and peace­ful change in so­ci­ety and, through her Foun­da­tion, she aims to pro­vide Afghan women with the op­por­tu­nity to get an ed­u­ca­tion in their own vil­lages so that they may grow and work to­wards a brighter fu­ture.

The Foun­da­tion runs the ‘Zab­uli Ed­u­ca­tion Cen­ter,’ which pro­vides free ed­u­ca­tion to about 500 girls and will add 50 girls ev­ery year un­til it reaches its tar­geted ca­pac­ity of 650 stu­dents. Re­al­iz­ing the need for qual­ity and free ed­u­ca­tion in the coun­try, the Foun­da­tion in­tends to use its school as a model to

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