Zia Noori – Women's day
Women’s day – Educating girls in Afghanistan
Noori is Womanity Foundation’s country representative in Afghanistan, heading the AGEA program (Advancing Girls’ Education in Afghanistan). We call it “School in a box”.
In this interview, Noori explains why the program focuses on girls’ education. The impact comes through teacher training, hygiene education, community engagement, academic and professional career preparation and school infrastructure improvements.
Womanity: Based on your experience, how do you see women and girls embracing innovation in Afghanistan?
Noori: Since 2003 I am involved in projects and activities that mostly support women, girls and children in Afghanistan. I can see a lot of improvements in different sectors. They have many more opportunities to access education from primary school to higher education, and they have more access to the job market.
The community and the government are keen to improve both the provision of academic facilities and their access, to enable women to be actively involved in the economy and public life, and to work as team members in different sectors.
We have examples from very remote locations. Women are able to become members of parliament or access higher education. For example, some have passed the board exam to the medical faculty for the first time at district level.
Womanity has designed a program around coding and web development to enable girls in high school, before they graduate, to get skills and tools to consider in the future. This is leverage for a good career. It also gives them the opportunity to choose a higher education path, and hopefully after first graduation.
The best change for girls and their families is that they let them become interns in companies and also let them continue higher education in the same field. We hope to provide more support in this field in the future for the girls whom keen to be part of this program.
Womanity: What can we all learn from working in collaboration with local authorities and various groups of influence, when we want to empower women and girls?
Noori: In communities like Afghanistan, every day there is a lesson to learn. Dealing with authorities is very difficult especially for NGO’s. It is complex to support public education, like a government school. However we could not miss the chance to support the most needy parts of the community – girls and women.
We converse with the authorities about each step of the implementation. We share with them the activities we are organizing, not just our plans. For each of these steps, we need approval of a local authority. It takes time but this is the appropriate way. Our main purpose is eventually to support girls who really need our support and collaboration.
Womanity: What questions do your stakeholders never ask you wished they did?
Noori: They should ask about the main achievements we have brought to the lives of the girls we support. Stakeholders should ask families who are directly involved to let girls access higher education, and develop their career, and importantly have a specific plan after they graduate. A program like Womanity’s enables girls and their parents to deeply think of the future, whether they want to continue higher education or enter the job market, because a grade 12 graduation is not enough.
Womanity: With these School in a Box and Girls can Code programs, what have you learned about boosting education ecosystems?
Noori: That’s a very good question. I am committed to empower girls’ education across the country through the provision of academic opportunities. We are proud of the progress the target population we are supporting has made.
The main fact is that we are enabling girls from most vulnerable communities to achieve their dream to access higher education. They are also able to work and provide support to their own families and at the same time, enhance their knowledge. This is unique in communities we are supporting whereas this was just a dream in the past decades.