03.27.24 / Category: Impact - Grant Awards

How We Work To Remove Barriers of Education – Volume 2, Episode 8: Central Asia Institute

The next episode of the Circle of Sisterhood monthly vlog series is here! Take a moment to learn more about the impact we have made through the multiple grants that have been awarded to Central Asia Institute (CAI). The critical funding provided to CAI over the years has helped girls and women in remote areas of Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Tajikistan.

About Central Asia Institute

Central Asia Institute’s (CAI) mission is to empower communities of Central Asia through literacy and education, especially for girls; to promote peace through education; and to convey the importance of these activities globally. To succeed, it is essential to provide adaptive programs that align with cultural norms. Resistance to educating women in Pakistan runs deep. CAI works to reduce negative attitudes by working closely with families and community leaders at the local level. CAI works to promote education and livelihood skills, especially for girls and women, in the remote regions of Central Asia. In the impoverished, marginalized, and socially conservative areas where CAI works, access to education, especially for girls, remains enormously difficult.

In 2018, the Circle of Sisterhood awarded CAI with a $10,000 grant that helped to expand a home-school initiative that will provide access to education for 210 adolescent aged, out-of-school girls in Diamer. The Diamer District is a conservative patriarchal society that has historically resisted educating girls. Most girls are required to drop out after 3rd or 4th grade as there are no separate schools for girls and boys. Diamer faces some of the lowest rates of access to education, percentage of primary and secondary attendance, and literacy rates. Through this innovative approach they will become educated, engaged members of their communities.

Tajikistan is the smallest and poorest of the former Soviet Republics. Due to extreme poverty, families often can afford to send only one child to school and in many cases, boys are given priority. The lower education levels achieved by Tajik women are reflected in their income: men earn close to six times the annual income of women. One of the greatest barriers to quality education in Tajikistan is the lack of qualified teachers, especially female teachers. Outdated pedagogical practices embraced during the Soviet days still predominate. 

In 2020, the Circle of Sisterhood awarded a $10,000 grant that supported support CAI’s implementation of the Science and Math Access for Remote Tajik Teachers – SMARTT project. This project provided training on modern subject-matter and pedagogy in the fields of science and mathematics to at least 60 female teachers. The project will also include funding for three teachers’ schools to purchase laboratory equipment to promote hands-on approaches and enhance the quality of education. In addition to being more effective, these teachers will serve as role models for their female students. Better-trained female teachers increase the likelihood that female students will stay in school, excel in these fields, and in the long-term, have access to better-paid jobs and greater economic opportunity. 

One of the most effective strategies CAI uses to reach out-of-school children is community-based education (CBE). In many communities, there is no formal government school within safe walking distance or means of public transport. Qualified teachers, especially female teachers, are hard to come by and many culturally conservative communities remain skeptical of the need for or value of educating girls. The CBE approach is effective because it removes these barriers. By working with the community to identify a communal space (often in a person’s home or a public building), training and recruiting teachers and paying them a decent salary, and providing supplies, books, and other educational materials, CBE centers offer a safe and viable alternative to schools. 

In 2022, CofS awarded another $10,000 grant that will fund the establishment and operation of four community-based educational (CBE) centers/classrooms for approximately 120 children, primarily girls, from northern Afghanistan who are currently out of school. A full academic year of classes will be provided, including reading, writing, mathematics, art, and other courses as required by the national curriculum.

By supporting girls and women to excel in fields such as math and science, these programs will help propel academic and professional achievements and increase their self-confidence. This work will help tear down gender bias, break down traditional societal attitudes that prioritize boys and men over girls and women, close income disparities between men and women, and empower girls and women to be leaders and change agents.