**How do you build a future if you don’t know you have a right to one? **
Not too long ago, Afghan women and girls were prohibited from being educated. Gender inequality denied women and girls their basic human rights. Access to education, healthcare, social and political participation challenged them.
In year 2003, a window of hope opened and almost immediately women began fighting for their rightful place in Afghan society. Despite ongoing cultural tensions, war and security concerns, women and girls are being educated. In Herat, 9-year-old Zahira has opportunities her mother couldn't dream about. She can freely walk with other young girls to the local centre to participate in psycho-social and life skills classes.
The impact is remarkable.
“When I first came here I was very stressed, embarrassed and could not speak in front of others; but now I have found that courage,” Zahira says. “When the teacher teaches and laughs during the lessons and other girls say jokes, these make us laugh and reduce our stress.”
Zahira's family was forced to leave their home and she now lives in a settlement for internally displaced people.
Jamila Sharifi is a psychologist and teacher at the centre. She explains the priorities set for the women and girls.
"One of the most important topics for the children is that they set their own educational goals and what they want to do in the future.
We have started psycho-social classes for children and women from Internally Displaced Population settlements to enhance their awareness about mental health issues.
And the children who are under stress and have problems with depression and other psychological problems are referred to us for counselling."
“Psycho-social centres bring positive mindsets to the children, and at the same time families also benefit from the learnings of the children," explains Elias Hatimi, communication manager at World Vision.
In places like Herat, where Childhood Rescue funds psycho-social and adult education centres, education is key. Not only does it empower an individual child but the benefit has amazing ripple effects.
Meet Zaynab, one of Zahira's teachers. She too was once a young shy girl struggling with stress and anxiety and finding her voice. Now, she's teaching the next generation of Afghan women.
“When I learnt there was a life skills class in our settlement, I participated. My mental state has improved, my self-confidence has increased and all my stress has disappeared," Zaynab says.
"After graduation I felt that there might be several people like me with stress and lower self-esteem who cannot develop their lives. The lessons I learned were very interesting and effective. Thus, I decided to teach others too, so that like me they also can apply life skills in their future."
It’s difficult to grasp the full impact of silencing women and girls from a society. Sadly, gender-based violence and discrimination is found in many of the places Childhood Rescue works. Education is not only about individual children, it's the wider community that also must seek change. Community engagement and genuine collaboration with elders and religious leaders enables cultural practices and traditions to be respectfully challenged and changed.
In 2020, our Childhood Rescue projects in Herat delivered psycho-social support and life skills classes to 1232 young girls like Zahira, 100 boys, 820 women and 813 men. Our programs are designed with the community, so when our projects thrive, the whole community can take ownership of the benefits.
Child protection, psycho-social support and life skills are an integral part of Childhood Rescue's programming, ensuring all children, especially girls, can build a future.