Keeping Girls in School and Out of Early Wedlock
Sahar has been increasingly successful at educating girls in the K to 7th grade range, but we were seeing a dramatic dropout rate around ages 12 to 13 due to early marriage. Early marriage in Afghanistan, especially in the Balkh province, remains a common custom. Girls in various cultural groups can be married early for several reasons, from being used to resolve conflict, to bringing money to poverty stricken families.
Early Marriage Prevention Program
In 2015, Sahar launched the pilot for the Early Marriage Prevention Program in two northern Afghanistan schools. Sahar’s strategy integrates conversations about child marriage and education within its two pilot schools and with community leaders, solidifying the long-term importance of educating girls within the cultural framework. Sahar is exploring partnership opportunities with local Afghan organizations to coordinate community engagement programs and is using their existing relationships with the Ministry of Education, principals, teachers and parent associations at their schools. Girl leaders in schools are identified as candidates for self-esteem programs to encourage them to remain in school, and to spread the awareness of their legal rights to not marry until age 16. At home, the program aims to increase fathers’ awareness of the long-term economic gain of having an educated daughter.
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.
Sahar has graduated 720 girls to date from this program, allowing them to earn more and become independent. As the Early Marriage Prevention Program is expanded beyond the pilot phase, even more of Afghanistan’s girls will have access to these kinds of opportunities, brightening the future of the entire country.
Dining For Women: Changing the World One Dinner at a Time
Dining for Women is a non-profit giving circle dedicated to empowering women and girls living in extreme poverty.