Developing education for women, by women, in Afghanistan

KABUL, 6 March 2003 - A new partnership between the Afghan Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Women's Affairs and UNICEF is to be launched on Saturday 8 March - International Women's Day - to produce the country's first literacy textbook for women.
Afghanistan has a high rate of illiteracy amongst women - estimated at 79 per cent - and the new textbook is designed as a first step towards improving the reading, writing and comprehension skills of women across the country. Designed by teams of women supported by the Ministry of Education's Department of Literacy, UNICEF, UNESCO's Institute of Adult Education and Save the Children US, the textbook will focus on the subject of life skills within an Islamic context. Chapters will concentrate on issues such as the importance of the family, raising healthy children, food, the environment, housekeeping, respect and understanding, marriage, and employment.

Each chapter of the new book, which is still under revision and is due for completion in May, has been designed by focus groups of Afghan women, including illiterate women. A series of workshops has brought these women together with writers and graphic artists, to ensure that the content of the textbook is relevant and interesting to women in Afghanistan. To complement the textbook, a set of teaching materials is also being produced for those who will deliver literacy courses.

The main funding for the project to date has come from the Government of Australia.

In addition to improving literacy, the emphasis on tolerance, understanding and improving relationships within the book is designed to help build status and self-esteem amongst women students. Literacy is seen as being a crucial element in reducing discrimination and exploitation of women.

Media interested in seeing work being undertaken on the textbook are invited to attend a workshop on Saturday 8 March 2003, at 10.00 a.m. at the Department of Literacy (opposite the Emergency Hospital), when His Excellency Mr. Khaliq, Deputy Minister of Education and a representative of the Ministry of Women's Affairs will join some of the women working with designers on the textbook and formally launch the new inter-Ministerial partnership.

For more information, please contact:

Edward Carwardine, UNICEF-Media, Kabul (0702 74729)

About UNICEF's Girls' Education campaign:

UNICEF's '25 by 2005' campaign is a major initiative to eliminate gender disparities in primary and secondary education in 25 priority countries by the year 2005. The campaign, which includes fifteen countries in Africa and Asian countries such as Afghanistan and Bangladesh, focuses on countries where girls' education is in a critical situation and progress would make a real impact.

UNICEF will work closely with national governments and other partners to identify girls who are not in school. In each country, UNICEF will work with the government to mobilise new resources, build broad national consensus about the need to get girls to school, and help improve schools themselves to make them more welcoming to girls.

UNICEF has chosen a manageable number of countries and based its selection on criteria that looked for countries with one or more of the following: low enrolment rates for girls; gender gaps of more than 10% in primary education enrolment; countries with more than one million girls out of school; countries included on the Education For All Fast Track initiative; and countries hard hit by a range of crises that affect school opportunities for girls, such as HIV/AIDS and conflict.

For further information please contact:

Allison Hickling, UNICEF New York, (212) 326-7224,