Would you know this girl if you passed her walking down the street
Most likely you would not—until now. Meet Shahzada Eishanzada. Shahzada lives in Andkhoy district of Northern Afghanistan. This young woman of 16 years has dreamed of being famous since the time she was young. “When I was a girl I had a dream to become an actress and a famous person.”
But how could she pursue this dream if she couldn’t read Like most others faced with the district’s serious economic problems, Shahzada was blocked from an education that could facilitate the future she dreamed about.
“At the age of seven, I wanted to go to school, but my family didn’t have enough money to send me,” and she began to resign herself to a life of labor. “As a young [illiterate] girl, I had no alternatives. As I remained illiterate, I lost my hopes, dreams and interests in education and acting.”
In her province there are 339 primary and secondary schools, 71% of which are male only. There is heavy pressure on women to stay home and work to help support the family, instead of pursuing an education.
For young Afghans, the future is uncertain. Nowhere is this more true than within the population of 1.7 million Afghan refugees living in Pakistan. Driven from their country by natural disasters and war, many refugees, particularly those within the Turkmen community, make their living weaving rugs. Other jobs—within Pakistan or Afghanistan—are few and far between, and the jobs that are available require something that the majority of refugees do not have—education.
For Barakat graduate Yousuf Shah, an education made all the difference.
Yousuf was born in Afghanistan, but moved with his family to Attock, Pakistan when he was only 3 years old. When his family heard about Barakat from relatives, they immediately decided to support Yousuf’s education. “They wanted me to have what they were deprived of,” said Yousuf.
It was difficult at times. “My family had a hard time when we started our schooling; it was a hard time to spend money because we had such a low income and we couldn’t contribute fully to earning income because we were in school,” said Yousuf. However, his family continued to support him and his siblings and eventually Yousuf graduated from one of Barakat’s schools, moving on to a local school for the 9th and 10th grade.
In a small classroom in Kabul, Afghanistan, 6 computers hum quietly. Around them sit 12 women, ranging in age from 7 to 55. These women are part of Barakat’s Sowat Hayati program that focuses on providing higher education to women who, for cultural reasons, are unable to attend school with men. These women are taking advantage of something that few Afghans have access to—the unique opportunity to learn about computers.
Zuhra Abhar, Barakat’s Overseas Program Director, who is currently based in Afghanistan, wishes that all of Barakat’s female students could have access to these programs. But it’s just not that simple.