Power of Partnerships – Afghanistan

In every place where Episcopal Relief & Development implements programs, we work with our partners in the field to create the most relevant initiatives that provide long-term solutions to pressing needs. In places like Afghanistan, where the social fabric has been shredded after years of war, political instability and extreme social repression, we also rely on our partners to help us access the most vulnerable and underserved groups. These relationships represent the power of partnership in action.

In Afghanistan, women have been extremely marginalized. Denied freedom of movement and education under the Taliban, the literacy rate for women in the country is between 4-14%. Their health suffers too; Afghanistan has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the world, with one woman dying in childbirth every half hour. There is a link between health and education for women. Numerous studies show that women who are educated delay having their first child and wait longer between each birth, two factors that contribute to maternal health and wellbeing.

For these reasons, in Afghanistan, Episcopal Relief & Development partners with Afghans4Tomorrow (A4T)a non-profit, non-political organization, working to rebuild the health care system and empower young women through education and skills training. Click here to see the PBS special about Afghan women education programs, featuring A4T.

Located in a rural village in the Wardak Province, the Sheikh Yassin health-post provides basic medical services to over 2,000 people and, in partnership with A4T and the Afghan Ministry of Health, ensures the ability of women to access a female doctor at the Dashte Top Hospital, the only hospital in the province. Another way that Episcopal Relief & Development is helping women is through the Chelsetoon Girls School, which operates from an impoverished suburb of war-torn Kabul. The Chelsetoon School provides girls and young women with vocational training, marketable skills and opportunities to earn an income. An intensive study program allows students to gain admission into secondary schools by completing the curriculum established by the Ministry of Education.

For 16 year-old Sheba, life was extraordinarily harsh in Afghanistan during the Taliban regime. Her father died when she was young, leaving her mother to provide for Sheba and her younger sister. Since Sheba was the eldest girl, her mother expected her to stay home to supervise household chores while her sister attended the A4T Chelsetoon School.

Sheba wanted to learn too and tried to figure out how she could continue her education. When she found out about morning sessions at Chelsetoon School, she convinced her mother to let her attend, promising that she would do her chores in the afternoon.

Now Sheba is a student. Although her education was interrupted by the decrees of the Taliban and she now shares a classroom with girls as young as 12, Sheba is resolute. She is focused on learning and looks forward to her graduation and a brighter future.

Thanks to our partnership with A4T, hundreds of women like Sheba are being offered a way out of poverty, marginalization and poor health. Sheba’s life has been transformed thanks to the power of our partnership in Afghanistan and with our donors who work alongside us to create a world that respects the dignity of all people.

“Afghanistan remains in crisis. The mood is somber and people there aren’t sure yet of the direction that the country is moving in,” said Nagulan Nesiah, Program Associate for Asia at Episcopal Relief & Development. “Visiting the A4T School was a bright spot in my recent trip to Kabul. A new world is opening up for hundreds of young women whose lives have been marked by oppression.”

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