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Welcoming the Biden-Harris Administration

Sahar translates into ‘a new day’ in Farsi and indeed yesterday was a new day in the United States. We celebrate the inauguration of President Joseph Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris.

The ascension of the first woman vice president, the first Indian and African-American woman to the second highest seat in the land, is a moment of victory for all – including immigrants and those who have suffered mightily and even died for equality.

Notably, among the first Presidential actions was to sign an executive order reversing the Muslim ban. We look forward to working with the Biden-Harris administration to champion girls’ rights!

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Celebrating 20 Years

Dear Friends of Sahar,

Our world has suffered immeasurably this past year. Just as the holidays arrive, many families remain separated from one another because of COVID-19. And yet, at the same time, we’ve all learned how to cope with this new normal, defined by uncertainties, zoom sessions, WhatsApp groups, masks, and social distancing. For Sahar, the impacts of COVID-19, the Afghan-Taliban negotiations, and the U.S. troop drawdown have amplified our resilience. Of course, resiliency has been part of Sahar’s story since the beginning.  

It is under these conditions that Sahar celebrates its 20th year of providing education to Afghan girls. Among our many accomplishments, we have delivered innovative gender equity programs to over 250,000 girls and their families, built or repaired 18 public schools, and educated 850 female teachers. Recently, we expanded our work to include engaging men and boys as gender allies. Our programs and schools create safe spaces for girls to study, play, and learn skills for the future, while also fostering peace among families and reducing the dire conditions of poverty.  

For 20 years, we have witnessed the hardships and trauma that endure within families and their communities after decades of war. Throughout it all, we find light and reasons to continue fighting—for gender equity, peace in Afghanistan, and a world where all girls can go to school.  

Sahar looks forward to shaping the lives of another 250,000 girls over the next 20 years. We will continue to build schools, provide educational opportunities to Afghan communities, and champion girls’ rights. Your conviction to promote a better world where all girls can study and reach for their dreams sustains our work in Afghanistan. Thank you. 

Happy Holidays from our family to yours. May the coming year be filled with light and hope of better things to come for our families, Afghanistan, and the world at large. 

Ginna Brelsford                                            Catherine Gelband 

Executive Director                                        Board President 

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Sahar Awarded WomenStrong International Grant

Sahar is pleased to announce that WomenStrong International has awarded us with a two-year
grant (2020-2022) to support Men as Partners in Change (MPC) as part of their innovative
Learning Lab in Girls’ Education and Empowerment (GEE).

WomenStrong finds, funds, strengthens, and shares women-driven solutions to transform lives.
WomenStrong brings together these organizations to learn and share through Learning Labs. In
these Labs, members explore their areas of work by looking to alternative intervention models,
existing academic research, and replicable practitioner approaches.

Sahar is excited to continue growing as part of the GEE Learning Lab, which focuses on how to
keep girls in school and prepare them with the tools and resources they need to live dignified and
peaceful lives. The GEE Learning Lab also works to understand how best to engage boys and
men as partners in girls’ empowerment, a central component of our MPC program.

Despite a challenging year due to COVID-19, the MPC pilot project – also supported by
WomenStrong – proved to be an incredibly valuable program for the communities with which
we work in Mazar-e-Sharif. “I learned by rights and, at the same time, women’s rights. I
understand that human rights are not restricted to men but for all human beings,” says Yasir
Walizadah, an MPC Trainee who did his training entirely remotely earlier this year.

We are grateful to WomenStrong for their continued support and look forward to continuing the
MPC program as we work to promote girls’ education, rights, and empowerment in Afghanistan.

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20th Anniversary Celebration

Join us on Thursday, October 29, 2020 at 6pm PST with Board Member, Joel Meyers, and Executive Director, Ginna Brelsford, to celebrate the 20th anniversary of our work! 

The celebration will include special appearances by our wonderful Afghan Fellows who will speak to the successes and continued challenges of girls’ education in Afghanistan. 

Proceeds from this fundraiser will benefit our mission to empower girls and women with the education they need to build peaceful, thriving communities.

Register here to join us – we look forward to seeing you!

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Our Response to COVID-19

This week Afghan students return to the classroom after more than six months out of school because of COVID-19. For us at Sahar, this back-to-school season marks the beginning of a new phase of COVID-19 response.

Afghanistan’s Ministry of Education first closed schools in March 2020. Since then, through the work of our implementing field partner, we began operating our programs remotely via WhatsApp. Our Men as Partners in Change Program and Early Marriage Prevention Program delivered course-specific training while also sharing information about how students could keep themselves, their families, their communities safe in light of the pandemic. In addition to adopting a remote model of programming, we also distributed care packages with COVID-19 necessities like hand soap and face masks to students and local community members. Responding to the immediate needs of the community of Mazar-i-Sharif was important because many of the communities we serve do not have access to the resources necessary to respond to the pandemic.

As schools reopen, we continue to reach the girls we work with by phone, WhatsApp groups, and peer-to-peer contact. The teachers involved in our programs are working with school administrators to ensure the healthy and safe return of girls to school. Through our MPC program, we have access to mosque leaders, community leaders, fathers, and boys in schools, all of whom we are encouraging to send their daughters and sisters back to school. Sahar’s field officers are resuming our programs cautiously and keeping girls’ health a priority.

Looking forward, addressing gender inequality is fundamental to recovering from the pandemic. In Afghanistan, there is a high likelihood that many girls will not return to school after missing almost half the year. There are also growing concerns that girls are at a higher risk of early marriage due to their families’ financial struggles. These challenges make continuing our gender-responsive work all the more important. COVID-19 has and continues to deepen existing gender inequalities and, as an organization dedicated to providing educational opportunities for girls, we must work to ensure that the future looks bright for Afghan girls despite the pandemic.

Although addressing gender disparities is a definitive challenge of COVID-19 response, it is also an opportunity. If our work has shown us anything, it is that girls are an invaluable resource to their families, communities, and countries. By promoting the right of girls to receive an education (even and especially within a pandemic), we are promoting the development of a peaceful and resilient Afghanistan.

Donate to support our work and make sure students and teachers can return safely to their classrooms.

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Farewell Sophie and Welcome Isabelle!

Sahar is sad to bid farewell to Sophie Allen, our Operations and Campaign Manager since 2019. Sophie has been an important part of the Sahar team, and we will miss her greatly. Sahar wishes Sophie the very best as she moves on to graduate school. We also extend our most sincere thanks for her hard work and the impact she has had on our partner communities in Afghanistan.

As of June 2019, Isabelle Shively will continue Sophie’s work in the capacity of Operations and Campaign Manager. Before joining Sahar, Isabelle worked with a humanitarian organization responding to the needs of forcibly displaced people. Her work taught her the power of access to quality education, especially for women and young girls. Isabelle is excited to be part of the Sahar team and make a difference in the lives of Afghan girls and communities.

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Sahar Awarded International Foundation Grant!

We are so excited to share that we have been awarded a grant from the International Foundation Grant to help fund our Men as Partners in Change Program! We are so grateful for the opportunity to continue working with the male members of the communities in semi-urban communities throughout Balkh Province.

Hear from a graduate of our successful pilot program about the positive impact the program had on his life.

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Our 2020-2021 Impact Report!

We are thrilled to announce the publication of the Sahar 2020-2021 Impact Report! We all have a role to play in gender equality, and since our inception in 2001, Sahar staff, supporters, and volunteers have been dedicated to the empowerment of girls, their families, and communities through education. The last year has been another fantastic period of growth and achievement, as we evaluated our existing projects and added a revolutionary Men as Partners in Change Program, to understand what truly works best as well as seeking to expand our reach even further.

Sahar is committed to continue our work in Afghanistan, despite the uncertainty of the times. Our work on the ground continues to be led by Afghan women and responsive to the needs of the community. We hope that you’ll enjoy learning more about our programs and what we have accomplished. Our goal is to portray the progress we are making and the hope we have for the future.

Of course, none of our work would be possible without the generous Sahar supporters who contribute vital funding, expertise, pro bono services and mentoring support. Thank you for helping us take another step towards a world where Afghan girls have equal access to education.

SaharImpactReport2020-2021

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Apply for Sahar’s 2020-2021 Afghan Fellowship!

Sahar’s Afghan Enrichment And Fellowship Program

Sahar’s year long Enrichment and Fellowship Program accepts applicants who have Afghan background and family heritage. The ideal candidate will bring excellent research and writing, public speaking and presentation, fundraising, curriculum development, and communication skills. A strong aptitude for organization is required. Non-profit experience and technical skills are a plus.

If your answer is yes to the following question then Sahar is looking for you!

  1. Are you passionate about girls education in Afghanistan?
  2. Do you know about Afghan culture, history, and people?
  3. Are you driven to bring positive changes to girls life in Afghanistan?
  4. Do you love networking and public speaking?

“The most rewarding part of my job is that I get a chance to contribute in bringing positive changes in the lives of girls and work towards girls empowerment.” -Sapida, Current Afghan Fellow

Past Afghan Fellows and Sahar Board members

The Opportunity:

This 40 hrs/week position offers flexibility in a growing organization with high impact in the international arena. Sahar provides a small, entrepreneurial environment that has lots of room for making a contribution while learning about organizational development, non-profit management and girls’ empowerment. 

This opportunity is  a great stepping stone for individuals who are starting out in their career, due to its versatility. “The Fellow will assist with program evaluation work and writing blog posts to give cultural context to Sahar’s work, raise awareness about Afghanistan, girls’ and women’s issues and the beneficiaries of Sahar’s programs. The Fellow will provide content expertise and input for newsletters, assist with grant writing and reporting – particularly in our Early Marriage Prevention Program, Digital Literacy programs, Teacher Training and input design work on a girls’ boarding school.

The Fellow will be responsible for speaking at events and to board members and working with schoolchildren to raise awareness about critical issues in Afghanistan related to empowering girls to access education. This requires liaising with Sahar’s Afghan team, Seattle team and regular social media updates and strategies.” This fellowship is a great gateway  to enhance your skills, capacity, and build your career. 

Ideal Candidate:

The ideal candidate will bring excellent research and writing, public speaking and presentation, fundraising, curriculum development, and communication skills. A strong aptitude for organization is required. Non-profit experience and technical skills are a plus. Afghan women nationals are strongly encouraged to apply. 

Job Description: 

The fellowship will include, but is not limited to: grant writing and reporting, content creation, research, community engagement, social media, fundraising, communicating with Sahar’s Afghan team, and program direction of Sahar’s Early Marriage Prevention Program. Through this work the fellow will bring a cultural lens to all of Sahar’s programs and organizational activities. 

Fellowship Timeline: July/August 1st, 2020 until May/June 30th, 2021. 

Contact: Please send us your resume and cover letter at info info@sahareducation.org cc ginnab@sahareducation.org. In your cover letter, please be sure to answer the question “Why do you want to work at Sahar?” We will reach out if candidate is selected to interview.

Apply by Friday, March 13, 2020

Fellowship Job Description

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International Day of the Girl

To end child marriage, invest in a skilled ‘GirlForce’ says Sahar on International Day of the Girl.

As the world celebrates International Day of the Girl on 11 October, Sahar is calling for greater investments to improve girls’ education, skills, and job prospects in Afghanistan.  We stress the importance of creating opportunities and safe spaces for girls’ voices to be heard and listened to in decisions that affect them. 

Ginna Brelsford, executive director of Sahar, says that more attention needs to be given in girls’ education to providing job-relevant skills and training to enable them to participate in the workforce and to move from dreaming to achieving a better future.

Educating girls represents real economic gains. For those girls who are able to continue through to graduation from high school, opportunities for employment and earning power increase. One extra year of secondary school increases a girl’s future wages by up to 25 percent. If a girl receives seven or more years of education she will marry four years later and have 2.2 fewer children, according to the UN Population Fund,” Brelsford said.

Every year, 12 million girls are married globally before the age of 18, depriving them of their rights to education, health and a life of their choosing. 876,00 of these girls are Afghan.

Evidence shows that girls who attend secondary school are three times less likely to be child brides.

They also have better economic prospects, fewer and healthier children, and are more likely to ensure that their own children are not married before 18.

Rachel Yates, Interim Executive Director of Girls Not Brides: The Global Partnership to End Child Marriage, which comprises of over 1300 civil society organizations, said: “Investing in efforts to end child marriage isn’t just the right thing to do – it’s also smart economics. When girls are educated instead of being married young, and have opportunities to earn an income, they are more likely to lead happier, healthier lives, and to contribute to the growth and development of their communities. Ending child marriage has to be a critical part of creating a ‘GirlForce’ of empowered girls who are able to reach their full potential, whilst ensuring we meet our global development goals.”

Under the theme, “GirlForce: Unscripted and unstoppable”, International Day of the Girl will highlight how with the right skills and support, girls can break barriers and build a better world for themselves and future generations. To mark the day, Sahar is highlighting the story of Halima, a graduate of the Early Marriage Prevention Program

“Let’s say I want to be a journalist in future. To fulfill this dream, I need to have access to a lot of resources. I will need access to the internet and communications skills that I learn in this school. The Boarding school [Sahar is building] will help provide facilities that help us achieve our dreams and build our personalities.”

Sahar is a member of Girls Not Brides, a global partnership of more than 1300 civil society organizations from over 100 countries committed to ending child marriage and enabling girls to fulfill their potential. For more information visit www.girlsnotbrides.org