Empowering Marginalized Girls is a Girls' Education Challenge (GEC) project in northern Afghanistan. The three-year project will enroll more than 15,000 girls from rural villages in safe, girl-friendly formal and informal learning environments. The project offers three different educational opportunities:
- Primary schooling – During the second two years of the project, more than 2,000 girls will attend formal primary schools built, run, and supplied (with textbooks and stationery) by the implementing organization. These schools follow the national curriculum. This student population is primarily drawn from those already enrolled in school but whose attendance suffers because they live very far away, sometimes as many as 10 kilometers from the nearest school.
- Literacy and numeracy courses – More than 12,000 out-of-school girls will complete basic literacy and numeracy courses over three years, either in one of the Youth Development Centers (YDCs) or in community spaces provided by local villages. The YDCs also feature nurseries to care for children while young mothers attend classes. These courses follow the traditional 9-month curriculum developed by the Literacy Department under the Ministry of Education. After completing this course, girls receive certificates from the provincial government and can transition into formal education – either primary schools nearby or those operated by the project – or attend vocational courses.
- Vocational training courses – If girls do not want to attend formal primary schools (often because they are too old) they can enroll in 6-month vocational training courses offered at the YDCs. These courses teach a number of vocational skills depending on the needs and available income opportunities in the community. Specific skill sets include jewelry making, kilim rug weaving, baking, and car mechanics. All girls who graduate from the vocational courses receive a $400 starter kit and, if they choose to pool their resources, can also form Self-Help Groups and receive additional business management training for income-generating activities such as poultry farming and bakeries.
The project partners with the government to hire and train teachers for the project’s different components. For formal primary schools, the government provides and pays teachers, while the organization pays literacy teachers working in villages and the YDCs. All teachers receive 10 days of training prior to the beginning of the project and a two-day “refresher” every six months.
In addition to providing primary education, literacy, and vocational training opportunities, the project works actively to engage local communities and educate them about the importance of sending girls to school. Program staff works closely with community and religious leaders, such as mullahs, to mobilize local support. Students themselves will also play an important role by forming youth committees and informing their peers. Youth committee members and other graduates of the project will reach out to community members via local radio programs.