April 11, 2024 society

How volunteers are helping to serve as a ‘beacon of hope’ in Afghanistan

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Girls at a school in Charikar, Parwan province prepare to take their final examination of the school year | January 5, 2010

Picture by: Afghanistan Matters | Flickr

Two years after the Taliban’s supposed temporary ban, another academic year has started, leaving girls in Afghanistan at a greater disadvantage.

Under the regime, girls are denied secondary and higher education and are restricted from pursuing their professional careers, violating basic women’s rights. But to help prevent their learning from coming to a complete stop, organisations in Afghanistan have been providing resources to them during this time.

Volunteers are helping to serve as a “beacon of hope” for girls and women in the country who are being denied the right to pursue their dreams through education.

The Organisation for Work and Development of Afghanistan (OWDA) is among these which “promotes education and changing mindsets,” and has been providing classes and assistance for women and orphans.

OWDA offers students classes in English, science and basic computer skills. It also provides counselling and motivational sessions to encourage its students “to pursue, persist and improve their educational skills.”

One of its education supervisors, who is being kept anonymous, emphasised the importance of their work.

“Education is like light, without light we are blind.”

Continuing to comment how “education is the key for everything. If we want to improve and bring change, we should focus on learning.”

With this same drive, I personally have been inspired to join these efforts, which aim to provide girls and women the opportunity to recognise and achieve their potential.

I have now been volunteering at OWDA as an English tutor for a year and have seen the difference the organisation makes in people’s lives.

Among the students impacted by their work are Zainab (aged 14) and Zulfa (aged 22), who shared with me the importance of such an organisation operating in this constraining environment.

Before the current regime and regulations, Zainab was one of the most intelligent girls in her school. She stayed on top of her homework and in her free time read books in various genres. When the bans came into force, she did not let that stop her from following her passions.

She decided to learn English and is now able to read, write and even translate it for others. Zainab, who has been a student at OWDA for six months, said: “Education is one the most important things in everyone’s life. Afghan girls are capable of doing lots of things and chasing their dreams.”

Zulfa, who also became a student around the same time as Zainab, shares a similar outlook. She was in her second year in university, studying journalism, when the Taliban took over. And the country’s sudden shift in politics meant she was unable to continue her educational journey.

Despite this, she did not give up. Now, she reads novels and comic books and is learning English, which she proudly says is “one of [her] best achievements.”

As the oldest child in her family, she shares that education has changed her life “completely” as now she can help her smaller brothers and sisters in their own pursuit of knowledge.

Their stories are an example of the vital role organisations play in the development of these women and girls, who have been refused their educational rights. Some of these organisations are self-funded, operate on low funds, or rely solely on volunteers.

OWDA operates without a budget or donations, with all of its teachers and staff working on a voluntary basis. But it has the capacity to extend its reach “drastically” if international organisations support its work and that of other non-profits in Afghanistan, said the educational supervisor.

Calling for wider global support, the supervisor added that by serving “thousands of girls and women in other provinces” they “can bring change and build Afghanistan.”

Written by:




OXSFJ & LEARN Afghan Project

Illustrated by Yuliia Muliar

Zohra, aged 17, is an avid writer participating in the joint project between The Oxford School for the Future of Journalism and LEARN Afghan. She is interested in pursuing her own education with plans to keep studying new subjects alongside her goal to become a journalist.

Zohra is enthusiastic towards literature with a love for both reading and writing. She also spends her free time listening to music.

She speaks Dari, English and some Pashto.

Due to security concerns the authors image and surname have been omitted

Edited by:


Sofiya Suleimenova

International Affairs Section Editor

Geneva, Switzerland