Canada supports Food for Literacy to empower young girls

In Afghanistan this food for literacy program encourages families to send girls to school.

Afghan girl

Nilab, 16, can now read and write after attending WFP-supported literacy classes in Shakardara district in Kabul province. ©; WFP/Wahidullah Amani

“After completing the literacy course, I will be able to read newspapers,” says Nilab, 16. © WFP/Wahidullah Amani

Poverty is one of the reasons Afghan girls don’t attend school. Girls tend to stay home to help their families with chores, such as harvesting food or fetching water and firewood. The attitudes of parents and family members toward education help determine who in the household can attend school and for how long, and girls more often face restrictions in some parts of Afghanistan.

Canada, as part of its humanitarian assistance program in Afghanistan, is working with the World Food Programme (WFP) to implement a Food for Literacy initiative. Through the project, families receive food in exchange for sending their daughters to classes, which helps to increase girls’ literacy and brings food into the homes of some of the most vulnerable community members.

Nilab, a 16-year-old girl, is among the youngest students at WFP’s Food for Literacy class in the Shakardara district of Kabul province. Nilab dreamed of learning to read, but never expected she would get the chance. Thanks to the WFP program, her dream came true when her father changed his mind and gave her permission to attend the class.

“I did not imagine that I would be able to read banners, write basic conversation and learn basic numeric skills,” says Nilab. “After completing the literacy course, I will be able to read newspapers.”

She believes that illiteracy is the biggest problem in Afghan society, but she thinks that is now about to change.

By the end of 2015, WFP aims to have provided literacy and vocational skills training to approximately 30,000 people in 20 Afghan provinces, with women accounting for more than 70 percent of the trainees.

Canada is working with other international donors to support WFP’s Protracted Relief and Recovery Operations  in Afghanistan, which fund programs such as Food for Literacy. These efforts, which also include support for domestic production of grain and high-energy biscuits for schoolchildren, are helping Afghans take a big step forward in their goal of building more resilient communities.

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