Spotlight on International Women's Day: Empowering Afghan Women and Girls through Education

By Noorin Nazari, TCAP Gender Specialist

"Acquire knowledge from cradle to grave!" is a famous proverb in Afghanistan and a defense tool for Afghan women by which they express their right to education. This year, on the occasion of International Women's Day, women in Afghanistan can celebrate their collective empowerment – regained dramatically in the past 14 years through education.

While progress for women in Afghanistan is evident in all aspects of socio-political life, it is indeed the education sector that has flourished the most, allowing millions of female teachers and school-age girls across the country to leave their homes every morning with the goal of exercising their right to education in schools. 

The FactsCanadians can celebrate International Women's Day this year knowing that an important Canadian-funded initiative is having a transformative effect for girls, women and the education system in Afghanistan. In 2011, the Government of Canada in partnership with the Afghan Ministry of Education embarked on supporting reform of the education sector of the Afghan government through TCAP, the Teacher Certification and Accreditation of Teacher Training Institutions Project. TCAP is one of the most remarkable Canadian programs in Afghanistan. Implemented by WUSC, in full partnership with Afghan education authorities, TCAP is creating gender-responsive policies, systems and mechanisms for credentialing teachers, accrediting teacher training institutions and reviewing curriculum for pre-service teacher education. 

“TCAP is central to Afghanistan’s education reform, which is nothing less than the creation of a new education system to support the country’s development. Gender equality is a fully integrated component of the TCAP initiative which WUSC is proud to be implementing on behalf of the Government of Canada.” - Chris Eaton, WUSC Executive Director

WUSC takes pride in facilitating gender-responsive reform in the education sector of Afghanistan. WUSC is implementing TCAP in partnership with the Teacher Education Directorate and three partner Teacher Training Colleges of the Ministry of Education in Afghanistan. By transferring technical expertise from Canada, facilitating regional knowledge sharing and building the capacity of institutions and the skills of individuals, TCAP has been planting and tending potent seeds of change since 2012 at partner institutions. 

"I am confident that the systemic changes now underway will improve the quality of teaching in classrooms and increase access to quality education for girls and boys, ultimately raising education levels and learning outcomes across Afghanistan. ʺ - Tim Goddard, WUSC TCAP Director

TCAP is contributing to the empowerment of female teachers by applying a gender equality focus to all aspects of the program.  The vibrant involvement of women at all stages of TCAP, from membership in policy-making working groups and participation in leadership and technical trainings to representation in the newly formed teachers’ association, will assure the needs of female teachers and students are considered and integrated into a gender-inclusive system that will benefit millions of male and female teachers across the country, and ultimately their students. 


TCAP Training Workshop


Teachers who have taken active roles in implementing TCAP feel waves of change at personal and institutional levels:

"This is the first time Bamyan [Teacher Training College] has a workshop. For most of us it is the first time we participated in a workshop. Now I know that a workshop can have an impact on how we think. Thank you for showing us how a good workshop may be. My views about women are changed. I am not afraid to say it." - Comment from a male participant. Gender Equality and Curriculum Review Workshop, Bamyan Teacher Training College, Bamyan Province, Afghanistan. November 2014

In 2014 alone the gender equality awareness workshops of TCAP invited the participation of more than 178 managers, professional teachers and administrators of the Teacher Education Directorate and Teacher Training Colleges in Kabul, Bamyan and Nangarhar provinces. A healthy debate on gender equality in the education sector of Afghanistan has already started.  The participants, one out of four of them women, acknowledge attitude change as a result of their enhanced ability to study various aspects of the education system through a gender lens:

"This workshop was very useful and I hope you will conduct workshops like this in future as well; because such workshops will change the mindsets of our male colleagues."  - Comment from a female participant. Gender Equality and Curriculum Review Workshop, Nangarhar Teacher Training College, Jalalabad, Afghanistan. September 2014

"I did not have enough information on gender and by participating in this workshop my view has changed." - Comment from a participant. Gender Equality and Curriculum Review Workshop, Bamyan Teacher Training College, Bamyan Province, Afghanistan. November 2014

Although much work remains in order to sustain and consolidate recent achievements and to strengthen the status of those women and girls in the Afghan society who have not yet fulfilled their potential, International Women's Day is a reminder of the way forward. It is a day to remind ourselves that struggles and efforts for empowering women undeniably pay off. The success that we are seeing in TCAP with regard to gender equality is a major step forward. It is also a day to acknowledge that WUSC and the Government of Canada are supporting change that will improve education for all Afghans, while increasing equality for women and girls in Afghanistan. 


1 Government of Canada Fact Sheet, Canada’s Support for Afghan Women and Girls. Fact Sheet (2014-06-19)

This story is part of a series recognizing the remarkable achievements of young women and girls for International Women’s Day, as well as the important work being done for gender equality. You can read the next installment, “Young Women Breaking the Cycles of Poverty in Sri Lanka” here.

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