The 2017 theme for International Women’s Day is “Women in the Changing World of Work: Planet 50-50 by 2030.” The subtitle here refers to the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and especially to goal number 4: Ensure inclusive and quality education for all and promote lifelong learning; and number 5: Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls. See more.
Canadian Jesuits International fully supports these goals. Below we highlight the story of an Afghan woman who is now teaching in a school run by Jesuit Refugee Services (JRS), a partner of CJI.
Stepping out of the shadows
By Shaperai Azizi*
Like millions of other Afghan girls, I live in a village where education is not given much importance. The slight chances that exist are given mostly to men, and girls are deprived of these opportunities. My village is situated in the district of Guzara, and it has always been subject to threats from anti-government forces. The villagers are conservative, but my family is different from others, and always encouraged me and my sisters to go to school and to learn many things.
I started to go to school when I was seven. I was a bright student. When I was in grade 10, I attended a course conducted by JRS at a high school in the heart of Guzara, far away from my village. That was back in 2009. I studied English for almost two years, followed by a year in the JRS Access Plus Program, in which I was trained in teaching methodology. At present, as a JRS teacher, I teach the girls in my village. I give my best so that they can learn. I have enjoyed each and every one of my days in JRS, both as a student and as a teacher. But at first I didn’t imagine how severe things would get later.
Everything was fine until unknown gang in my village made threats against me. One evening, the gangsters dropped a letter at my door, threatening to kill me if I continued to work with JRS. For some days, it was difficult for me to act normally. More than the threat to my own life, I was worried about the safety of my family. But as the saying goes, “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” So I soon collected myself and came out with a stronger determination to continue my way. I knew that this was the work of close-minded people who didn’t have the guts to face open-minded people. I paid no attention to the threats and decided to pursue higher studies and to play a significant role in educating the other girls of my village.
I am grateful for my wonderful family that has supported me in the most difficult times of my life. And I am proud of JRS that has been a constant source of strength, support, inspiration and motivation. With JRS, I can improve my skills in English and develop leadership qualities to help others. I am proud to be a member of JRS and my ambition is to train all the students in my village and to help them attain a good position in their lives. In this way, I will contribute to the development of Afghanistan and the world.