In Afghanistan, the pandemic comes amid other recent challenges, including a surge in Taliban violence and the negotiations over the proposed US withdrawal. But our project partner, Dr. Sakena Yacoobi, has faced down danger before. In 1995, after the fall of the Taliban, she returned to her country and started the Afghan Institute of Learning to help a country devastated by war. Since then, AIL has trained 30,000 teachers, educated half a million children, and delivered health care and skills training to millions of men and women.
In response to the pandemic, Yacoobi’s hardworking staff sprang into action. They distributed hot food and food packages to thousands of families facing hunger because they can’t go out to earn their daily wages. They converted tailoring classrooms into mask production centers and distributed thousands of masks, gowns, and shields to health clinic staff. They donated $13,000 worth of supplies—masks, gloves, soap, and sanitizer—to the Herat government’s coronavirus response effort.
But Dr. Yacoobi, an educator and Nobel Prize nominee who has won international recognition for her work, was also worried about the children. “We had finally gotten the children engaged in learning. All of a sudden, they were sent home and are missing school. The teachers and administrators gathered and asked, ‘What should we do?’” They created video lessons for students who had access to a phone or a computer. For the rest, they made printed packets of lessons and set up a hotline to tell families where they could pick up the materials. Finally, they made tutors available at schools and offered counseling for adults to address the increase in domestic violence.
In Pakistan, our project partner Khalida Brohi and her Sughar Foundation works with NGOs that help women in the country’s rural and tribal regions. Brohi launched Sughar at the age of 16 after losing her beloved cousin to an “honor” killing. The foundation works with local NGOs to provide livelihood and empowerment training to women and to provide seed money for woman-owned small businesses. In response to covid-19, the foundation has shifted temporarily to provide food rations and counseling for their clients’ families. A $25 bag supplies food for a family for a month and contains:
In Somaliland, which has one of the highest rates of mortality in the world, our project partner Edna Adan continues her life-saving mission: to care for mothers and infants and train midwives at her Edna Adan Hospital. We are heartened to learn that another class of Edna’s midwives is on track to graduate next month! The advanced midwife students are continuing their classes online. First-year midwives, in one of their final training sessions before graduation, recently met in small groups to learn procedures for resuscitating babies.
The covid-19 pandemic could set back decades of progress for women.
ConnectHER supports Women Deliver’s recommendations here.