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Sahar in The Seattle Times

Read about Sahar Education in The Seattle Times ahead of the Washington Give Big campaign on May 7th and 8th!

Sadaf, age 18, joined the inaugural round of the Stealth Sisters program in July 2022, only months after the Taliban closed schools for girls in Afghanistan. Joining the program was an act of desperation for Sadaf — restrictions on women mounted by the day.

Innovative, courageous organizations and individuals are ensuring that the Taliban’s announcement didn’t mean the end of girls’ educational opportunities. Washington-based nonprofit Sahar’s programs, such as Stealth Sisters, teach English and computer skills.

Sadaf completed the program in December 2022 and is now fluent in Word, Excel and PowerPoint, with improved English. By offering online Zoom-based Dari language classes, Sadaf became financially independent.

Perhaps even more critically, like many program graduates, Sadaf experienced increased confidence and willingness to speak up.

Surveys show that program participation immediately addresses feelings of depression and hopelessness caused by the current country conditions, according to Shogofa Amini, Sahar’s programs manager, an Afghan immigrant passionate about women’s empowerment and gender equity.

Continue on SeattleTimes.com

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International Women’s Day Zoom Round Table

Missed our International Women’s Day event? You can still learn more about our programs and the impact they have on Afghan women and men by watching the recording on YouTube!

With the continued gender apartheid in Afghanistan, awareness is one of the greatest weapons against the Taliban.

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Breaking News: Women Allowed Limited Medical School Enrollment

In the ever-evolving landscape of women’s education in Afghanistan, recent developments have stirred a mix of hope and reflection within our mission at Sahar Education. The recent announcement of the Taliban permitting female enrollment in state-run medical institutes marks a significant milestone in the journey toward gender equality in education. As advocates, we find ourselves at a critical juncture, where progress intersects with ongoing challenges.

The Taliban have reportedly allowed female high school graduates in Afghanistan to enroll in state-run medical institutes for the new academic year that begins in March.

VOA News: Taliban Allow Female Enrollment in State-Run Medical Institutes

However, only 9 provinces have been included in the order including Kapisa, Parwan, Panjshir, Maidan Wardak, Ghazni, Paktika, Logar, Khost, and Paktia.

It is not clear whether the initiative will cover the remaining 22 provinces.

According to the news agency, the Taliban Ministry of Public Health has sent a letter to the Directorates of Public Health in the mentioned provinces, instructing them to start the process of recruiting 12th-grade female graduates to health institutes.

Kabul Now: Taliban Open Medical Institutes to Women Amidst Continued Restrictions

Reports from Kabul Now and VOA News shed light on this pivotal moment. The decision to open doors for women in medical studies comes as a result of persistent pressure from both domestic and international rights groups.

The UN has consistently warned about Afghanistan’s shortage of qualified health workers, especially females.

Kate Pond, a spokesperson for UNICEF, said, “there is a shortage of qualified health workers in Afghanistan overall, and women in particular,” noting that some people travel long distances for healthcare services.

Kabul Now: Taliban Open Medical Institutes to Women Amidst Continued Restrictions

This development is not merely a policy shift but a testament to the resilience and determination of Afghan women to pursue education despite adversity.

However, as we celebrate this step forward, we must confront the stark realities that persist. An article from The Associated Press serves as a poignant reminder of the obstacles still faced by Afghan girls. The closure of high schools for girls under Taliban rule highlights the urgency of our work in providing alternative avenues for education and empowerment. Due to the closure, there have been no new graduates since 2021 and Afghanistan runs the risk of having no students qualified to enter these programs in future years if high school is not reinstated.

A woman’s education can also determine if her children have basic immunization and if her daughters are married by the age of 18. The lack of women’s education is among the major drivers of deprivation, says the U.N.

Aid groups say girls are at increased risk of child labor and child marriage because they’re not at school, amid the growing hardships faced by families.

AP NEWS: 2 years ago, the Taliban banned girls from school. It’s a worsening crisis for all Afghans

At Sahar Education, we are committed to providing underground classes in essential subjects such as computer skills, coding, and English. These initiatives serve as beacons of hope, offering Afghan women the tools to carve out brighter futures for themselves and their communities.

The recent developments regarding women’s education in Afghanistan underscore the importance of our mission. They remind us that while progress is being made, much work still needs to be done. Our resolve to empower Afghan women through education has never been stronger.

As we navigate the complexities of this moment, let us draw inspiration from the resilience of Afghan women. Together, we can continue to break down barriers and build a future where every woman has the opportunity to thrive.

Want to support the continued resilience of Afghan women and girls? Join Sahar Education for a free Zoom Round Table event on March 7th.

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February 2024 Updates

February marks the end of the winter break for many Afghan schools. This is also an important month for the mission of Sahar. Several of our programs run around school schedules and this month will see the return of our Stealth Sisters, Underground TechSheroes, and Men as Partners in Change to their classrooms.

But for many others in Afghanistan, the return to school is a harsh reminder that they have been left out. Sahar receives almost daily pleas from women and girls through email and social media, asking to be enrolled in our programs. We are working hard to expand our programs and bring hope to more of these desperate girls.

You can learn more about the students in our programs by visiting our updated website or reading our 2023 Impact Report.

Program Updates

90 Students enroll in Underground TechSheroes second round!

Today marked the beginning of the second round of Underground TechSheroes in Afghanistan! 60 students began the IT course and another 30 embarked on Coding.

This program is open to students from 15 to 20 years old who are banned from formal education under the current regime. Past students have graduated with the skills and confidence necessary to pursue employment in medical offices, become freelancers, and enroll in online courses.

This program is made possible not only by your support but also by the bravery of the teachers who hold these programs in secret locations for our students. Despite the heightened risk for the girls and the team with recent reports of the Taliban arresting women for going against their policies, they are committed to the success of these programs.

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Upcoming Events

The new year brings new opportunities to change the lives of Afghan girls.

International Day of Women and Girls in Science

This yearly celebration of the contributions of women in the sciences is a reminder to all girls and women that their dreams are possible. Consider donating in the name of your support for women in STEM on February 11th, 2024.

Quarterly Zoom Round Table

Join Sahar Education on March 7th, 2024 to learn how underground education is changing lives this year! Register today!

Join us on March 7th for the first virtual round table of 2024

Get to Know Afghanistan

Eager to understand Afghan culture further in this time of crisis for the people of this embattled country?

Read A Thousand Splendid Suns, recently recommended by Dua Lipa

A Thousand Splendid Suns

“I first read A Thousand Splendid Suns just after the return of the Taliban in 2021 when Afghanistan dominated headlines around the world. If we need any reminder of why we should stand in solidarity with Afghan women now more than ever, this book is surely it. It’s a really intense story of a world we all hoped was far behind us – and yet it’s more relevant than ever to understand the lives of women under the Taliban.”

There are many ways to support the women and girls of Afghanistan. We encourage you to immerse yourself in artwork, books, and interviews about the country.

To get updates every month from Sahar, sign up for our newsletter below.

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Human Trafficking Awareness Month

Hunger is skyrocketing in Afghanistan and children are suffering. Many families make hard decisions to sell their daughters into forced marriage as early as 6 years old. This practice has skyrocketed since schools were closed with no prospect of daughters bringing in money and helping support their families any other way. (Source: Washington Post In the new Afghanistan, it’s sell your daughter or starve)

Across Afghanistan, child marriages have skyrocketed, and not only because of economic collapse. Families once hoped that their daughters, when educated, might find good work and contribute to the family income. Today, under the Taliban’s ever-increasing restrictions, school is prohibited for girls after the sixth grade, and work options for women are few. Sequestered at home, a girl becomes just another mouth to feed. But as a bride, she’s a valuable commodity. A $2,000 bride price is enough to feed a family for a year. For the girls, of course, this is a nightmare. 

Stephanie Sinclair, Founder – Too Young to Wed

A child bride is sold for around $2,000. They are subjected to abuses most of us dare not imagine. And it is preventable.

Girls and women who participate in underground schools come away with the skills and determination to start home businesses, freelance, and teach their own schools, bringing income without being sold. These programs are a gateway to freedom for so many.

In December, CNN reported that suicides and depression are rising in Afghanistan among girls and women. Women’s Empowerment courses in Sahar programs tackle the stigma and hardship of depression and give girls support and hope where many are without.

Experts say reliable statistics on suicide and suicide attempts aren’t compiled in Afghanistan, but rights groups and doctors say they’ve seen an increase under Taliban rule.

Dr. Shikib Ahmadi has been working six days a week and longer hours than ever, seeing patients at a mental health clinic in Afghanistan’s western Herat province. He’s using a pseudonym because he fears the Taliban will punish him for speaking to foreign media.

Ahmadi said the number of female patients at his clinic has surged 40% to 50% since the Taliban’s takeover two years ago. Around 10% of those patients kill themselves, he said.

Oppressed by the Taliban, she swallowed acid. Now her siblings are trying to save her life, CNN

Early marriage prevention has long been a topic of Sahar programs and we continue to tackle this sensitive topic in our underground courses, including the Men as Partners in Change program. Educating men and women on the dangers of early marriage is an important step in prevention.

In many countries, marriage before the age of 18 is a reality for girls due to the interaction of several factors that place a girl at risk, including poverty, social norms, customary or religious laws that condone the practice, an inadequate legislative framework and the state of a country’s civil registration system. Child marriage often compromises a girl’s development by resulting in early pregnancy and social isolation, interrupting her schooling, and limiting her opportunities for career and vocational advancement. It also often involves a substantial age difference between the girl and her partner, thus further disempowering her and putting her at greater risk of partner violence, sexually transmitted diseases and lack of agency.

The Afghanistan MICS 2022-23

Forced and child marriage is human trafficking and it’s becoming more common in Afghanistan due, in part, to strict bans on secondary education and restrictions on employment for women and girls. Underground schools give an avenue to these families, a route to take that doesn’t involve selling their daughters to the highest bidder.

This January, take a stand against human trafficking.

Sponsor a girl in underground schools or sponsor a woman who wants to support her family, we can’t change lives without you.

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2023 Impact Report

“In the wake of unprecedented challenges and transformative shifts in Afghanistan’s socio-political landscape, Sahar Education emerges as a beacon of hope and resilience. As we navigate the complexities of a post-2021 era marked by the Taliban’s takeover, Sahar Education steadfastly continues its mission to empower women and girls through education.

This Impact Report for 2023 unveils the organization’s unwavering commitment to providing underground education, demonstrating the indomitable spirit that has defined Sahar’s journey since its inception in 2009.

Before the Taliban’s resurgence, Sahar Education was at the forefront of positive change in Afghanistan. From constructing schools for girls to operating teacher training centers and offering women’s empowerment classes, the organization played a pivotal role in shaping a brighter future for Afghan women and girls. The abrupt shift in the country’s dynamics necessitated a strategic pivot, leading Sahar to adapt its approach while staying true to its core values.”

Read more in the full report!

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