The plight of uneducated women in developing countries has thousands of faces. But with so many people in need, those unique stories are often overwhelmed by reports and statistics. In countries with war-torn histories, economic instabilities, widespread poverty, geographical remoteness, and lack of infrastructure, it’s all too common for the struggles of daily life to overshadow the importance of education. Central Asia Institute believes that shifting the course of a nation’s future begins with changing the individual lives of the girls and women who call it home. Such change has the greatest impact in the form of education.
“Women share this planet 50/50 and they are underrepresented—their potential astonishingly untapped.” – Emma Watson
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An educated female population is more than just a moral imperative and social right. For developing countries, improving girls’ education promotes contributes to the productiveness of the workforce and the health of the nation. Investment in educational gender equality — from both developing nations and NGOs – decreases national poverty in the long run. Women’s literacy, and subsequent participation in leadership and decision-making in their communities, is truly at the foundation of stable, democratic societies.
But in developing countries, where keeping the day-to-day peace and providing basic food, water, and shelter often require the bulk of available resources, what is CAI doing to improve girls’ educational opportunities? Our organization starts by identifying the areas of greatest need.
Changing the future starts with understanding the need
In Tajikistan, a country still finding its footing after gaining independence from the Soviet Union and surviving a six-year civil war, school infrastructure has not been the most pressing priority in recent years. Tajikistan’s Ministry of Education and Science estimates that 18% of the nation’s schools would pose an immediate threat to student safety in the event of a natural disaster, and 30% of schools need major rehabilitation work, including roofing, lighting, and heating. These poor conditions have negative impacts on student health and contribute to low student attendance during winter months.
Most pressing for female students, especially adolescent girls, is the widespread absence of basic sanitation and washing facilities. In a UNICEF study of girls who had dropped out of school or were at-risk of doing so, 18% of interviewees said they had missed school because of inadequate sanitation facilities.
The struggles of Tajiki schools are further compounded by a lack of human resources and qualified teachers. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the newly-independent government had no budget to finance teacher training programs, and teachers in remote areas were especially underserved. In all communities, low teacher salaries and insufficient resources have made it difficult for schools to attract and retain well-trained and motivated teachers.
Thanks to the support of our generous donors and in-country partners, Central Asia Institute is making a difference in girls’ education in developing countries like Tajikistan.
Recent Successes in Improving Girls’ Education
Since 2012, CAI has built four new schools in remote regions of Tajikistan. These schools are safe, warm, well-lit, and sanitary learning environments for both girls and boys.
In addition to new school facilities, we have also helped communities revolutionize their teacher training programs. CAI is leading initiatives to deepen teachers’ understanding of subject matter, develop their utilization of technology and other information resources, and increase the numbers of students they can teach. Since 2014, CAI has trained nearly 200 teachers in the subjects of English, Russian, computer science, math, physics, and chemistry.
Our Early Childhood Development (ECD) programs in developing countries are designed to bring important developmental support to young children in need; early childhood is widely understood to be the most critical time of brain growth, with great impacts on a person’s future health and success. CAI, in partnership with the Education Department of Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Oblast (GBAO), created a training course which has now certified over 150 kindergarten teachers.
Poverty is a common barrier to girls’ education in developing countries, so CAI is working to change that one life at a time. By funding the primary, secondary, and vocational educations of Tajiki girls and women, we empower motivated individuals to find more secure financial footing. For some, an education provides the only chance to avoid early marriage. For others, a dream of teaching, entrepreneurship, or government work is finally within reach.
Through funding and facilitating school construction, teacher training, and scholarships, we are improving girls’ education in disadvantaged communities. Our work in the developing countries of Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Tajikistan improves lives, builds stronger communities, and facilitates lasting peace.