Saba Gul: A Story of a Social Entrepreneur

Saba Gul’s project, BLISS, has been progressing wonderfully since our last update, and thefirstline of Bliss handbags will be released this fall! Saba partnered with Barakat Pakistan to incorporate traditional Turkmen embroidery skills into Barakat’s school schedule to help women create a new livelihood and enhance their earning potential. Since the project’s establishment, Bliss’ popularity has grown and many girls want to be involved!

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Walk for Literacy Spotlight: Katherine Pegors

Massachusetts doesn’t look very much like Afghanistan, whose different language, sights and smells make it seem a world away from the U.S.  Despite this fact, Arlington resident Katherine Pegors’ commitment to education in this region places her at the center of Barakat’s work in Afghanistan. We sat down with Katherine, who rallied her friends and community to raise money for last year’s Walk for Literacy to discuss why she supports Barakat’s work. 

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For Afghan Women: Sowat is Middle Ground

Noor Bibi has perfect vision, but she calls herself blind.
“Without literacy, I am the same as a blind person,” she explains. “I couldn’t read even a hospital’s board or a drugstore’s board. For this reason, I decided to become literate.”
Noor, right, is 35 years old and married with ten children–six boys and four girls, to be exact. In January 2010, she enrolled in Barakat’s Sowat Amausi Home-Based Literacy Program in Guzar Attar Khana, in theAndkhoy district of Faryab, AfghanistaMah Noor
Six days a week, Noor wakes up at 4:30 a.m. to complete the day’s household chores and care for her children. But each day in the late afternoon, she puts everything aside.
She walks to a nearby home, sits down next to one of the other 20 students, takes out her schoolbooks, and listens raptly to her teacher, Marina. From 4 to 6 p.m., they learn to read and write Dari, as well as mathematics.
For Noor, whose father would not let her attend school as a girl, Barakat’s home-based literacy program gives her the opportunity to become literate, while accommodating for her busy schedule.
“Our course is at a good time because I can go and study, then work at home,” said Noor.
The courses take place in the home of a host family, and all of the teachers are female to encourage enrollment of women who cannot attend public school for religious or cultural reasons. The students range from 7 to 55 years in age.
A Fellow Sowat Learner
In another host’s home in Shahr-e-now, a nearby town also in Andkhoy, sits 17 year-old Zeb-ul-Nisa.
Like Noor, Zeb-ul-Nisa,  attends a Barakat-run Sowat Amausi program. She too wakes up at 4:30; beginning her day with the fajar prayer, then breakfast. Her class begins at 7 a.m., and goes for two hours, six days a week.
“After finishing the course each day, I weave rugs at home,” said Zeb-ul-Nisa. “Our course is at a very good time because I can both study and do housework.”
There are several local schools nearby, but like Noor, Zeb-ul-Nisa’s father won’t let her go to public school.
While Zeb-ul-Nisa’s mother has some say in the matter, “the final decision,” she says, “is made by my father.”
With her father’s permission, Zeb-ul-Nisa hopes to continue her education at a formal school one day. In the meantime, she says, she’s grateful that the Sowat Amausi programs can provide a middle ground for her and her family.
Noor and Zeb-ul-Nisa are nearly 20 years apart, but both women have the same thirst for knowledge. In between their household tasks, they read whatever they can get their hands on in their homes: books, magazines, newspapers.
“I wanted to learn to read and write because I could not even read a simple banner. I want to have a job outside of the home. I want to live in comfort,” said Zeb-ul-Nisa.
Although both cannot say for sure whether or not they will be able to continue their education, for them, becoming literate has simply enhanced their quality of life and given them new perspectives. Noor insists that she will send all of her children to school, and Zeb-ul-Nisa wants to become a teacher herself.
In the words of Noor, becoming literate has opened their eyes.

And neither of them are planning to shut them again.


By: Lisa DeBenedictis


Written By: Lisa DeBenedictis

Surviving the Flood: One Woman’s Story

The water was nearly 25 feet high.

“It smashed everything; nothing was left,” said Khadija Agha, an Afghan refugee living in Pakistan whose home was destroyed in the floods. The only possessions she and her family were able to salvage were a few dresses and some pots.

They are a family of 13. She and her husband, Taaghan, have nine children, two of whom are under five years old. Their nephew and daughter-in-law live with them, as well.

Khadija’s family moved from Afghanistan to Pakistan when she was a young girl, 30 years ago.

“We left due to the war, when Russia invaded Afghanistan,” she explained.

They’d been living in the Azakhen refugee camp in Nowshera, Pakistan for nearly 15 years before the flooding, making a meager income of 4,000 Pakistani rupees ($47) a month from weaving carpets. In addition to caring for her children and doing the housework, Khadija works alongside her husband.

After the floods left them homeless, Khadija and her family travelled to Attock to stay with some of her relatives.

“We were all together, and we managed to reach Attock safely,” said Khadija.

Now, she and her family have moved into a rented home there and plan to live in the town permanently, though they have not yet found work. Right now, they are relying on help from their relatives and donations from Barakat.

“We have arranged for a house first, and now we will look for work, but we can only weave carpets. Barakat has helped us to arrange for our daily expenses. We will buy food and supplies with the money Barakat has given us,” she said.

Khadija and her husband also plan to send all their children to Barakat schools because Barakat will be providing them with free education. In their previous town, they could not afford to send their children to school.

“I’d heard about Barakat schools, and now, we will send our children to them,” said Khadija.

After seeing her home and livelihood torn to shreds, Khadija says that her greatest fear is quite simple: survival.

“I have a large family,” said Khadija. “We are all struggling hard just to survive.”

By: Lisa DeBenedictis

Written By: Lisa DeBenedictis