ASU partners with Canadian group to improve education for women in Afghanistan | ASU News – ASU News Now

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Living in Kabul under Taliban rule has been heartbreaking for Abida, 30. She has witnessed entire households collapse under financial ruin, and many of her Afghan neighbors live below the poverty line. Women and girls, who once had access to education, are now living in what Abida and others call “darkness,” without opportunities and with increased isolation and mental health issues.

On International Women’s Day, March 8, Arizona State University’s Education for Humanity initiative and Canadian Women for Women in Afghanistan (CW4WAfghan) are illuminating that darkness with their partnership offering online English language courses for girls and women across Afghanistan. 

These courses, designed by ASU faculty in a self-paced, low-bandwidth modality, are currently being taken by nearly 2,000 students across the country via laptops, tablets and phones in computer centers and homes. The courses are supported and facilitated by CW4WAfghan staff and volunteers.

Adiba’s education was cut short, but she hopes the program will help make her dreams of helping women in her home country a reality. Fayah, 23, was succeeding in her field of studies but things changed drastically when the Taliban took over in 2021. 

“Everything was lost, and my efforts remained fruitless. When I learned about this program, I was able to remain hopeful about my future,” she said. 

Fayah said she is thankful for the opportunity to continue studying.  

“I believe that if programs are created to enable girls who have incomplete education to complete it, considering the hardships they have endured to reach their current level against the traditional mindset of their parents, they have fought to build their future,” Fayah said. “However, in the current circumstances, the livelihood of all of us is in absolute darkness, and I hope you (ASU and CW4WAfghan) can be a guide and a light to escape from this darkness.”

In late 2021, ASU took in 64 Afghan women, supporting them in their education after the U.S. pulled its troops out of Afghanistan. Those students are still being educated and are thriving more than two years later, and the first woman from that group graduated last spring. President Michael Crow said ASU’s support of Afghan students aligns with the university’s charter of inclusivity and taking responsibility for the communities it serves. 

“We have decided to use all of our assets … all of our learning methodologies and learning technologies and all our abilities to work across cultures to really fulfill our commitment to global engagement,” Crow said. 

Since its establishment in 2017, Education for Humanity has reached nearly 12,000 learners in 17 countries globally through its English language, college preparatory and workforce readiness programs. More than 15,000 Afghan women have applied for the current program. ASU and CW4WAfghan plan to educate all of them. 

CW4WAfghan, founded in 1998, has successfully supported and implemented hundreds of education projects for two decades across Afghanistan. 

“Afghanistan is the only country on the planet to deny education to women and girls as a policy. The risks of this policy for all of Afghan society, and for adolescent girls in particular, are well documented including early marriage, exposure to gender-based violence, increased risk of poverty, and heightened maternal mortality rates in later life,” said Lauryn Oates, executive director of CW4WAfghan. 

“Until education is restored for women and girls, we need higher education institutions around the world to open up their doors to Afghan women and follow the example of ASU.”

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