In the run up to International Women’s Day, Islamic Relief is sharing stories of our work to increase women’s access to education and training.

In Wara districts, in central Afghanistan, we are working to educate 1,800 women, many of whom have grown up in poor communities and have had to forego formal education in order to support their families.

Now married, many of these women are now poor farmers in a cold mountainous area where life is tough. Many are keen to improve their education, not only for their own progression, enjoyment and confidence, but also to help support their children through education.

Learning as adults

Jahan and other women take advantage of education offered in their home villages.

Jahan and other women take advantage of education offered in their home villages.

Jahan, 23, is one of the women who has taken part in Islamic Relief’s training. She lives in the remote village of Shinya Khak and has been learning literacy, health and business education.

When she got married, she asked her husband if she could go to school, but he refused. Instead, she has been able to learn how to read through the home-based education centre set up near her home. She can now read and write, and carry out basic maths, which helps her look after her family’s small farming business.

Jahan has also learned cooking, tailoring, handcraft waving, livestock and poultry care, marketing, and health education.

Making progress

Katayon presents to the class.

Katayon presents to the class.

In Sazjoy, another village in Waras, lives Katayon, who is one of 25 women accessing education locally.

“Due to the conflict, I couldn’t attend school as a child, so I learned the Holy Qur’an from my father in the home,” she said. “I was the oldest child in my family and had to help my mother and father with the housework.”

Katayon was married when she was 13, and is now 23. She has four children. The eldest is nine and the youngest is just one.

She couldn’t read or do simple maths but, while balancing childcare and work supporting her husband, has been steadily progressing in her lessons.

Empowered by education

Nikbakht says education has empowered her.

Nikbakht says education has empowered her.

Nikbakht is 40 years old and said it was seen as dishonourable to educate girls in her home village when she was a young girl.

“I tried to learn the Holy Qur’an when I was a child but I couldn’t learn it very well. This was the first opportunity I had to learn, so I could read the Qur’an and other books,“ she said.

“Before, I couldn’t go shopping alone. Whenever I wanted to purchase anything, I had to give all my money to the shopkeeper for him to deduct the price. It was the same problem when I wanted to sell things. One day I sold some produce and I was worried about the amount of money I’d been given. I had to wait until the evening for my son to come home and check it.”

She is now able to go to the market to buy and sell without help and she is even saving money to help support her children’s school expenses.

In the run up to International Women’s Day, we have been sharing stories about our commitment to improving lives through gender justice, including educating girls living in a slum in Bangladesh and providing additional training for female teachers in Iraq.