The main focus of our program in Afghanistan is to help children and youth realize their full potential while improving the status and dignity of women. Girls’ education in particular is essential to promoting women’s rights and recognizing the contribution of women to the well-being of their communities and society.
That is why Development and Peace is working with Catholic Relief Services (CRS) on a community-based primary school project in rural areas of the province of Bamiyan, Afghanistan. This three-year project will allow 180 students (92 girls and 88 boys) in grades 1 to 3 to continue through grades 4, 5 and 6.
This project is Afghan run and led, with nationals comprising over 97% of the staff of CRS-Afghanistan, who are working with, and for, the communities they serve.
One of the few remaining agencies that can operate effectively in Afghanistan, CRS is making education safe and feasible for the children by (1) basing the project in communities where it enjoys broad-based support and buy-in, (2) running classes in the children’s neighbourhoods in discreet locations, often in teachers’ homes, and (3) delivering the government-mandated curriculum. CRS-Afghanistan also provides ongoing on-the-job mentoring to the teachers to ensure their professional development. What’s more, despite initial resistance, all CRS-supported communities now have at least two women serving on their five-person school management committees.
Given the effectiveness of CRS education projects in addressing gender disparities and preventing drop-out among girls, which are particular challenges in Afghanistan, this project is a means for Development and Peace to improve the economic and social prospects of Afghan youth while supporting Afghan women and girls and their vital human rights.
The 1% Program with CWL
For over 50 years, the Catholic Women’s League (CWL) and Development and Peace ― Caritas Canada have been partnering on projects through the 1% Program. Since 1969, CWL members have been regularly setting aside one percent of all their personal luxury expenses and all the funds raised in their parish councils, in support of projects aimed at improving the status of women in the Global South.
This year, the League is supporting our community-based primary school project in Afghanistan, which promotes women’s access to sustainable livelihoods, economic empowerment and dignity. To renew the 1% Program in 2022, we sent this Lenten letter of appreciation to our CWL sisters.
Despite progress in the last two decades, gender inequality in Afghanistan remains among the worst in the world, and women’s rights in Afghanistan are expected to suffer severe setbacks following the Taliban’s takeover of the government in August 2021.
We have already seen examples of this, ranging from Taliban decisions preventing most girls and women from attending secondary school and university, to local directives preventing many women from working, as well as the arrest and disappearance of women after protesting for their rights to education and employment.
In addition, Afghanistan is one of the poorest countries in the world. Decades of war and political chaos, as well as the impact of climate change and Covid-19, have torn apart Afghanistan’s social fabric and stalled its development. Today, with rampant unemployment and skyrocketing food prices, millions of Afghans are unable to buy food or basic goods, and a humanitarian crisis looming.