By Ruth Yohannes (Sahar Intern)
Sahar’s work is based in the Northern Afghanistan province of Balkh. It is one of the most secure areas in the country, which allows for cooperation between the government and numerous international organizations in large-scale projects such as education and agriculture rehabilitation. As a result, the province has benefited from relatively high development. Balkh province’s capital city, Mazar-i-Sharif, is the nation’s fourth largest city.
Balkh is leading the nation in the reconstruction of the public school system. Since 2001, they have achieved tremendous results in student participation rates, especially for female students. Sahar’s effort to increase education for girls has been positively received in Balkh province. Sahar serves almost 25,000 new female students in 2016 alone.
Compared to the rest of the country, the region has had high educational achievements. In 2016, Balkh province established 49 new primary schools, and restored 52 existing ones. These numbers are more than twice the national average, making Balkh a unique case in Afghanistan. In addition, Balkh province is home to a couple of longstanding higher learning institutions. Balkh university is the second largest university in the country.
Balkh’s distinct position in Afghanistan is in part due to its past as a hub for Persian literature. In fact, its position on the Silk Road—an ancient trade route stretching from Europe to the Far East—has allowed it to participate in large intellectual and spiritual movements such as Buddhism and Persian poetry. The well established presence of education in the region makes it easier to successfully implement progressive programs such as early marriage prevention. Sahar works closely with the local community in order to ensure long-lasting support for girls’ education and empowerment.