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Afghan Women Leaders Featured in First-of-its-Kind Education Calendar
The women were chosen based on their involvement in education, child protection, health, cultural preservation, or community service.
Each month, one woman is featured with a photograph and a story about her work. Designed for use in the classroom, the stories are followed by three discussion questions. The calendar follows the Persian calendar year, which begins in March.
"It is through sheer will and determination that these women have achieved their successes, and AED wanted to spotlight their activities so children could see women in many different roles," said May Rihani, senior vice president and director of the AED Center for Gender Equity.
Female Role Models Featured
Among the women included in the calendar are Jamila Mujahed, founder and editor of the women’s magazine, Malalai; Hawa Meskinyar, founder of Join and Help Afghanistan Now; Fauzia Hamraz, director of Ethnographic Collections at the Kabul Museum, and Professor Sakena Yaqoobi, executive director of the Afghan Institute of Learning, who received the 2005 Democracy Award from the National Endowment for Democracy.
The calendar has been widely distributed since its debut last spring, and reaction from teachers and students has been extremely positive, according to Lisa Piper, who directed the project for AED in Kabul, where the calendar was published.
Calendar Aid Ongoing Teacher Training Efforts
AED has been training teachers in Afghanistan in gender sensitivity, interactive approaches, and using visual aids in the classroom for more than a year. According to Piper, the calendar helps to accomplish all those goals.
"It was a challenge to produce this calendar in Afghanistan because women are traditionally not in the spotlight and there was nothing similar to refer to," said Piper. "But now that people see the calendar, they are very enthusiastic. It definitely fills a need." The teacher training project and the calendar are funded by America’s Fund for Afghan Children/American Red Cross.
According to Rihani, who has created similar calendars for educational projects in Africa, teachers can use the women’s stories to spark lessons and discussions about topics relevant to the woman’ s work.
"The twelve women are role models for girls who hope to remain in school, pursue a higher level of education, and become involved in the community," said Rihani. "They are role models for boys as well, because learning about strong women encourages respect for women in general."
Women to Speak on Radio Nationwide
In another highly unusual activity for Kabul, AED has organized the Afghan Women’s Role Model Speaker Series, in which women featured in the calendar speak to audiences of students, teachers, and NGO representatives about their work and organization.
These speeches are being broadcast nationwide in prime time by Radio Danesh on six consecutive Saturday evenings. The first program, featuring Jamila Afghani, director of the Noor Educational Center, aired September 3.
"As a result of Jamila Afghani’s presentation at the a boys high school, a group of boys regularly visit her center and have created a campaign about being respectful of others—men, women, and children—no matter what ethnicity they are," said Piper.