Literacy Programs: Determined to Learn

“I encourage all women and children to study despite the difficulties they face. I feel one day their education will help them overcome their problems,” says Hasina, a 27-year-old mother of four who attends one of our home-based literacy courses in Afghanistan. Hasina’s parents did not let her attend school as a child, due to safety issues and also because the importance of literacy was not apparent to them. But it is to Hasina. She works as a tailor during the day and attends her literacy course in the evening. Even though Hasina says she will not be able to continue her education beyond this course as she needs to spend more time taking care of her children, she is happy to have the opportunity to become literate. “This course is very valuable to me because it will help me read and write properly,” she says. Faltor many women in Afghanistan, who were not able to attend school, our literacy course is their sole hope of becoming literate.

Abeda, a 38-year-old mother and housewife, began attending a Barakat literacy course because of her strong interest in learning. Although her children attend formal schools, Abeda was only able to complete her education up to second grade. The school she attended was burnt down by a destructive act of terrorism by the Taliban. “I understand the importance of education and truly feel that the basic advantage of this course is that it will allow women to go further in pursuing higher education,” Abeda says. She feels fortunate that no one in her family or her husband’s family is against women’s education, because she believes in education and considers it to be a human right.

Khair Ulnesa, age 50, is another mother and housewife enrolled in one of Barakat’s literacy courses. “I learned about the literacy course through girls and other women in the village,” she says. “I have always been a fan of books since I was young, and now I feel fortunate to have this opportunity to learn.” Her children attend formal schools, and Khair believes education will open new paths for her and her family. “I strongly advise all women to obtain an education either through literacy courses or formal schools,” she says. “It will really help them and their families move forward in life.”

These literacy courses provide an opportunity for women of all ages and all walks of life to be able to read and write. They also provide them the opportunity to access a fundamental human right- education.

Girls Volleyball Team: Let’s Play Ball

Sixteen girls gathered around on a dusty playground in Fayab Province at Mullah Kareem Nazar School. In spite of the sun beaming down, the temperature was still a bit chilly. Bubbling with enthusiasm, these girls were about to embark on a revolutionary endeavor in Afghanistan. They are part of a girls’ volleyball team at their school. In a country where women and girls have minimal freedom to leave their home, these sixteen girls are out on a field participating in a physically competitive sport. To many, this team could be considered a sign of a new era. The principal at Mullah Kareem Nazar School, Mohammad Ayob said, “not only is this team important to maintain healthy physical conditions for girls, but it will also help future growth.” Mohammad added that as the importance for literacy spreads and more become literate, the importance of sports and competition will be more appreciated.

Afghanistan still has a long way to go to realize Mohammad’s vision and values. There is plenty of opposition from parents concerning the formation of a coaltmpetitive girls’ sports team. One of the fathers of a student said “It is important for girls to be literate, but playing the volleyball is for boys, not for girls.” He added, “Also our society does not accept girls’ sports teams, I think our values forbid girls from playing sports.” Yet, there are also fathers that fully support the team. Aziz Ulla, one such father, said, “ThisCut is really great for my daughter, because previous to this she couldn’t even play at the park and physical activities are important to one’s health.” Within this spectrum of thoughts and concerns, the only thing certain is that this team is definitely a controversial idea.alt

But most importantly, the girls themselves are thrilled to learn a new skill that neither their former nor their present female classmates have had the opportunity to learn. Ramzia, a 14-year old student has always been interested in volleyball. Therefore, when the occasion to join a team presented itself, Ramzia jumped at the opportunity. Luckily for Ramzia, she made the team. Overjoyed, she claimed, “I felt intelligent and capable. I now pay more attention in classes and look forwarded to playing volleyball.” Ramzia is a great athlete and dedicated to the sport. As passer for the team she says she enjoys playing with her teammates, and volleyball in general. She claims, “I frankly don’t realize how the time passes when we are playing.” Ramzia is just one of many girls who view volleyball as a new and exciting outlet for growth.

As small of a step as starting a volleyball team may seem, it’s an important sign of change. Girls like Ramzia, who are future leaders and decision makers, will now see the importance of developing skills that society may question. The hope is to cultivate change and lessen gender disparity. In Ramzia’s words, “As a female, I now feel courageous.” Perhaps this new-found courage can aid young girls in bridging the gaps of gender disparity and forging a new role for women in their society.

BLISS: Fashion and Passion for a Cause

Is there a cause that you feel passionately enough about to quit your job and devote your life to Saba Gul has decided to do just that – the progress that her company, BLISS (Business and Life Skills School), has achieved has transformed it from a project for her free time into a full-time job. But this isn’t just any full-time job – Saba has entered into the world of social entrepreneurship, where there is a new job to be done every day and every accomplishment holds new challenges. Saba has recently begun showing BLISS bags at exhibitions in cities in Pakistan and has been meeting great praise in the process.

When Saba describes her decision to quit her job in the United States to return to Pakistan and work on BLISS full-time,alt her passion for the project is evident. She focuses on the praise that BLISS has received and the increased exposure and progress gained in the last few months:

“My heart was in BLISS – I wished I was in Pakistan, working on the ground, full-time and spending more time with the girls. BLISS started becoming more ‘real’ over time – from things like attention from the State Department, to incubation by prestigious programs like Unreasonable (The Unreasonable Institute), to people wanting to write about us, BLISS started gaining a lot of traction. I felt more compelled to give it the time and attention it deserved.”

Saba has been using this time to organize the exhibitions for BLISS, and handle each aspect of production personally. Throughout the more arduous tasks, Saba remembers that ultimately, her work will pay off for Barakat students. The quicker she can expand operations for BLISS, the quicker she can bring the program to more students. Her drive to bring beautiful, high quality products to market is fueled by her desire to further BLISS’s social mission.

As the first round of bags have been shown at exhibitions in Lahore and Karachi, Saba uses the exhibitions to not only show off the bags, but also to stress the importance of the cause behind BLISS: “I was very excited but also very nervous, because it was the first time our bags were going to be on display for people to look at and critique. I also gave a short talk with pictures and videos from Attock – and while I was very nervous, it came out really well. Stories of the girls and commentary from the teachers made BLISS come alive for the audience.”

As Saba gains more and more exposure for her work with BLISS, the project will be sure to grow. This will of course bring new challenges, but Saba is ready to meet them head-on. Her initial exhibitions have gone wonderfully and Saba’s greater time investment is allowing her to shine in the world of social entrepreneurship. We’ll keep you posted on Saba’s tireless efforts to build BLISS. Great job, Saba!

Three Girls with a Passion for Learning

How do you tell people what’s on your mind?  How do you find out new information–the best new restaurant, the latest international event, or news from your local community?  While text messages and social networks are spreading news around the world, word of mouth is getting the job done for Barakat Afghanistan.


Three Barakat students, 14-year-old Nazila, 16-year-old Hajera and 17-year-old Sayera, heard about Barakat’s home-based literacy courses from either their neighbor, their friend, or their aunt.  “I have a passion for learning, and that is why I sought information about the literacy course from my neighbors and enrolled,” said Nazila (right).  Sounds like, in the age of social media like Facebook and Twitter, word of mouth is still the best way for us to spread literacy.


The girls weave rugs or tend to housework during the day and attend their literacy courses in the evening.  Hajera (left) could not go to school when she was younger because her father did not want her to travel a long distance alone to get to school.  “Now that the literacy course is centered in my village,” she said, “my father has no objection to my studying there and so I can take classes.”

The importance of education is very clear to the students, who know that literacy will be essential for improving their lives and achieving their dreams. “These courses are really valuable to me,” said Sayera, “because they have allowed me to read and write properly.”


The literacy courses encourage all of the students to continue their education if possible, and many do.  Nazila herself intends to enroll in our higher level literacy course, which will give her the equivalent of an 8th grade education.

The students continue to spread the word in their communities about the value of becoming literate, encouraging other Afghan girls to attend school or take courses if they have the chance because they understand the benefits to education, and see the difficulties of illiteracy all around them. “I strongly advise girls my age to study,” said Sayera (right), “otherwise in the future they will regret not pursuing education.”

Help another girl attend one of our literacy courses by making a donation today!