Afghanistan has lived through periods of conflict and instability for many decades now. The rise to power of the Taliban and the consequent involvement of NATO (later ISAF) in 2001 to drive out the Taliban, caused massive displacement of Afghans inside the country and also to neighbouring countries, mainly to Pakistan and Iran. Young people, and mainly young women, were left without an education, circumstances that made them particularly vulnerable. RET International started working with these young women upon their return to Afghanistan starting in 2005, in order to breach the educational gap by offering literacy, numeracy and livelihoods trainings.

  • 1.
    The Crisis Affecting Afghanistan
  • 2.
    Its Impact on Young People
  • 3.
    How RET Protects Them

1. The Crisis Affecting Afghanistan

For many decades, Afghanistan has been at the centre of regional and global tensions, making it extremely unstable and conflict-prone. At the dawn of the century, the Taliban came to power causing a first wave of displacement, mainly towards Pakistan and Iran. When the NATO (later ISAF) alliance intervened in 2001 to drive out the Taliban regime, even larger numbers fled.

Between 1994 and 2002, an estimated 6 million people were forced to flee their homes. At least 800,000 were displaced internally, with the remaining fleeing to refugee camps in Pakistan and Iran.

In 2002, Afghan refugees began to return to their country with the hope of rebuilding their lives. The country to which they returned was stabilising, but large gaps in infrastructure and basic services remained. Also, security remains an issue up to the present day.

2. Its Impact on Young People

Young women were particularly hard hit. Many had fled when they were only children, with little or no education. In the camps, there were few educational opportunities creating a large gap in their schooling.

Upon return, they discovered that they were now considered too old to enter Afghanistan’s formal education system, or some who were married/widowed could not re-integrate into classes with younger girls. It seems these young women had fallen between the cracks.

Given the traditional role of women in Afghan society, such a lack of education is even more dramatic. Lack of education renders them extremely dependent and makes it terribly hard to plan for their future.

3. How RET Protects Them

Since 2009, RET has been actively involved in Afghanistan. Working in the provinces of Panjshir, Parwan, Badakshan, Kapisa and Bamyan. RET has offered education and livelihood support to help vulnerable young people in a sustainable fashion.

Building upon a successful model developed first in RET’s experiences in Peshawar and later Kabul, RET opened 13 Women’s learning Centres, as a stable foundation to offer sustainable help to vulnerable young women.

Upon this foundation, RET particularly addresses young women’s urgent need to be offered remedial courses. Among others, they are given literacy and numeracy help, as many women either have never had the chance to attend formal schooling, or stopped attending at a young age.

Informal schooling is also provided to young women, in the form of Small Business Management. This training is also made available to young men, who have equally been made vulnerable by the events of the last two decades. Particularly, they are given training in managing greenhouses and in raising livestock to provide a stable income. Other women receive computer literacy courses, allowing them to find employment opportunities and thus help the sustainable development of their country. The centres also have a medical unit open to all the community and a kindergarten for the children of the women who come to study.

It is thus through education that vulnerable young women can bridge the gap between their former refugee lives and ones of resilient Afghan citizens. In addition, with RET’s community based approach the centres are supported by the community, the elders, the local and provincial government authorities. This starts at the project design stage and remains present all the way through the implementation and monitoring and evaluation stages, making the programme dynamic and sustainable, as all key stakeholders are involved.