Literacy in Afghanistan, part 2: Educating Girls and Women

hand on blackboard

In Part 1 of Literacy in Afghanistan, our writer discussed why it is important for Afghan people to take control of their own education and how creating better schools and better teachers can help reach this goal. The story continues with a discussion of education for women and girls.

In Afghanistan, some people say that women need only an Islamic education, that women should just pray and do housework. They don’t, therefore, let their daughters go to school.

You might ask these people, “Why can’t your daughter go to school?”

They will answer, “This is our culture. My mother and my sister didn’t go to school. How can I let my daughter go?”

I once went to school with a girl whose father worked in an office. The girl came to school for two months then she didn’t come again. We became worried about her. One day my friend saw the girl in a shop and asked her, “Why aren’t you going to school? You’re such an intelligent student.”

The girl cried and said, “My father won’t let me go back to school.” 
My friend said, “Why? Your father is a literate person. Why does he have such a bad idea about education?” 

Some people, it seems, have a good education but their actions are like those of illiterate people. Yet other people are not literate and have good ideas about education.

My father, for example, is illiterate but he says, “The best way to improve our life is through education; without education no one can improve. If we have lots of money, one day we will lose it. We can have many things but we will lose them. We never lose our education; that is with us like gold.” 

Because of my father’s ideas, my sister graduated from school. After graduation she got married and many people have said to her, “You finished school but now you’re jobless.”

My sister replies, “But I am so happy that I finished school. Now I can read and write and I am the first person in this house who is literate.” 

By speaking in this way, my sister has changed the ideas on education of many people in our village. She taught them the importance of literacy. Changing the way people think is not easy. To be accepted, new ideas have to be said in a certain way.

I think if a woman doesn’t have an education, it is hard for her to have a good family and good children. As I wrote in an earlier story, the family is the first school and a mother has to be a good teacher. Afghanistan is an old country with a good history. If we—especially women and girls—have a good education we will see that Afghanistan can be one of the best countries in the world.

By Mahbooba

Photo by Felicia Webb/Christian Aid


  1. This is deeply-heartening, Mahbooba. Reading about your sister, and of course, your father, and of course, *you*, is a very hopeful thing. This is how change happens: one literate child at a time. Thank you for sharing this with the world!


  2. thank you for sharing your story with us, Mahbooba.
    your father might not be educated, but he is clearly a very intelligent man with intelligent daughters… please give him a hug from me next time you see him and tell him that this woman in europe is proud of what a good father he is to his daughters.
    i wish your family a lot of happiness :o)

  3. liz titus says:

    Dear Mahbooba,

    You write with such insight! I especially like the way you describe your sister, after getting an education, now has no “job” other than raising children. This issue is global, as non-working, educated women face a kind of discrimination. Their work is real and vital. Their education is not wasted; it has enlightened them, given them a life of the mind, and they will pass this along to their children.


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