Risking your life for change
This year, coinciding with the drawdown of international troops and the beginning of the fighting season, Afghanistan has seen a surge in violence. For Marina, an aspiring healthcare worker, recent militant activity in Afghanistan’s Badakhshan Province is cause for concern. She had hoped to return home to work as a midwife after graduation.
“My interest [is to] serve my people and my community. Particularly the women and girls,” she said. “There are no other girls or women healthcare workers to help the women and mothers in my area right now.”
“I am Marina a scholarship student of CAI. Thank you.”
However, returning home could prove dangerous if conflict in the region continues to escalate. Taliban have already closed the high school in her village.
“In our village, now the girls cannot go to school and study easily as I did and it is due to the problems the Taliban created,” she said.
Marina is not alone in this.
Fahima* is the top-scoring student in her medical program in one of Afghanistan’s major cities. Extremely bright and driven, her life would be in danger if her uncle, who works for the Taliban, knew she was studying to be a doctor.
Stories like this are not uncommon. Yet in recent talks with the Afghan government, Taliban representatives seem to be softening their stance toward girls’ education.
According to a May 2015 editorial in The Nation, participants pledged support for women’s education up to the university level and vowed to permit women to work outside the home – rights almost entirely banned under the pre-2001 Taliban government. Only time will tell if these promises will be kept, but if they are the implications could be profound.
As a University of Maryland School of Public Policy report points out, women’s education plays an important role in combating extremism. As Pakistani women become more educated, they are less likely to support militancy and terrorism, compared to similarly educated men, says Assistant Professor Madiha Afzal. The survey also found that uneducated women are more likely to support militancy and terrorism than similarly educated men.
This is significant for many reasons, not least of which is that young men and boys recruited by extremist groups are expected to get their mothers’ blessings before joining such an organization, or going on a suicide mission. So, girls who are educated – especially those who complete secondary school or above – grow up to be mothers who are less likely to give their sons permission to pursue violent solutions.
Sadly, many Central Asian girls receive only a basic education, if they receive one at all, at which point they are expected to drop out, get married, have children, and stay at home.
With the help of scholarships, young women are able to continue their studies, get married and bear children later in life, and perhaps even pursue a career.
“It’s not enough to build a school, you have to give these children every chance to reach their full potential,” said Jim Thaden. “That’s why CAI supports some women for 10 or 15 years, from primary school to university. You can’t just plant a seed and hope it will thrive; you have to water it, nurture it, and help it grow into a magnificent tree. ”
Women in the region are committed to education. They see more role models pursuing higher degrees and careers. They are willing to fight for what they know is their right and many risk their lives in the process.
“With women willing to lay down their lives for education, “said Thaden “It seems absurd that we can’t give up our daily cup of coffee for a month to provide one of these young women with a scholarship.”
Educational dollars go much further in the three countries where CAI works. Just a few dollars can make a world of difference.
*The student’s name has been changed to protect her identity.
For 259 girls, whose stories are much like Marina’s, that is not the case. Scholarships have made their dreams possible.
Please consider learning more about CAI’s Scholarship program and watch our video “Nurturing Dreams” to see how scholarships can change the fate of women for generations to come, and how they have already changed the lives of girls like Marina.
With your help young women’s dreams can come true, and more easily than might be expected. A few dollars equal a lifetime of achievement:
$60/month: Full scholarship for a university student in Afghanistan
$80/month: Full scholarship for a university student in Tajikistan
$100/month: Full scholarship for a university student in Pakistan