IRC Afghan Teacher Addresses American Federation of Teachers Conference
"The future of Afghanistan is in my generation."
|Wahida Furmuli addresses the American Federation of Teachers Conference|
The IRC's Wahida Furmuli, who fled Afghanistan as a refugee and returned this year as a teacher and aid worker, addressed the American Federation of Teacher's human rights luncheon in Las Vegas, Nevada on Tuesday.
"The doors of education are finally open to Afghan girls who visualize their futures as bright and fruitful," Furmuli told the audience of fellow educators.
"I was afraid the impact of the Taliban would have altered Afghan people's perceptions and value of women and education, but thankfully the opposite has happened," she said. "Afghans are now clearer than ever on the importance of education for women."
Furmuli and her family fled Kabul in the early 1990s when their home was destroyed by rocket fire. They joined the exodus of Afghan refugees seeking safety in Pakistan.
Once in Pakistan, nearly all family resources went to school fees for the children. Furmuli went to classes in the morning, taught primary school for younger children in the afternoons, embroidered to earn extra money, and studied English in the remaining hours of the day. She later enrolled in medical college for Afghan refugees in Pakistan, but the institution was shut down by Pakistani authorities before she could complete her degree.
In 1999, Furmuli began working for the IRC's education program for Afghan refugee children and women and has since dedicated her life to ensuring that Afghan girls have opportunities for a quality education and that women play a prominent role in Afghanistan's future education system.
The IRC program in Pakistan runs dozens of schools for Afghan children - 71 percent of which are girls. The program has also trained over 1,000 female teachers, many of whom are now returning to Afghanistan to establish schools.
"During the suppression by the Taliban, Afghan women made superhuman efforts to educate their daughters in secret home schools, some of which were self-supported and others were aided by organizations such as the IRC," she said. "Many of these brave women were caught and beaten by the Taliban. Now we are happy that those years of repression are over."
However, Furmuli said Afghan educators face a daunting task in resurrecting the country's destroyed education infrastructure. She said schools are almost non-existent, materials are scarce and there is a tremendous dearth of trained teachers.
"If a stable and peaceful civil society is to be established - where the rights of Afghan women, especially to education, are to be permanently restored - world organizations should step forward with their support for the restoration of education in Afghanistan," she said. "We need women's empowerment programs that focus on and are delivered through education. There are thousands of other young women like myself who can prove to be the energy required for the reconstruction of our country."
Click here to read the full text of Wahida Furmuli's address (.pdf format).
|IRC's Nina Papadopoulos with students of an IRC-supported school for Afghan refugee girls in Pakistan.|
Nina Papadopoulos, who oversees IRC education programs in Afghanistan and Pakistan, also addressed the conference and described the last seven months as an exciting time of opportunity for women and girls.
"Parents are more eager now than ever before to send their children to school," Papadopoulos said. "They see education as a vehicle out of a predominant culture of revenge and we are challenged with the task of helping them realize their dreams by working with them to create quality education programming in line with the national agenda for education."
Papadopoulos also thanked the American Federation of Teachers for supporting the IRC's education programs for Afghans and said the IRC looks forward to continued collaboration in teacher training and capacity-building initiatives.
She stressed the critical need to keep education high on the agenda for policy makers in Afghanistan and world capitals, as well as to secure international aid to fund medium and long- term efforts in the education sector.
Click here to read the full text of Nina Papadopoulos' address (.pdf format).