I am the mom of two rambunctious toddlers––twin boys. Recently, in parent conversations at their playgroups, the topic has begun to turn to preschool. Around sand boxes and over snacks of Cheerios and peas, the questions bubble up. Which philosophy of education is best––Montessori or Waldorf? Play-based or academic? Part-day or full-day? Shouldn’t they already be on at least a couple of waiting lists? It’s easy to get caught up in this and for a moment I catch myself wondering if I missed the boat. I can just picture my little guys at the “last preschool on the list” –– some place out of Charles Dickens with all the requisite bleakness and thin gruel.
But then I remember Sakena Yacoobi and the stories she told us during her last visit to the Global Fund for Women. Sakena has dedicated her life to ensuring that girls in Afghanistan have the opportunity to go to school. She and her staff at the Afghan Institute of Learning endure threats to their lives to educate over 25,000 children annually, mostly girls who otherwise would have no opportunity to go to school. When you add in their health services, teacher training and adult education programs, they are reaching 350,000 Afghan women and children each year.
And I think about the parents in Afghanistan. Afghan girls have been attacked with acid and poison gas on their way to school by a fundamentalist movement committed to denying them more than just access to education. I think about the parents of these girls, who each morning must decide whether to send their daughter to school, and risk her life, or whether to keep her home, and throw away her future. My heart breaks for any parent who must make that choice. The choices that I have to make about preschool are so small and inconsequential in comparison. In fact, the choices that I have are the choices that I wish all parents had.
It doesn’t matter where my boys go to preschool, it matters that they go. And for the girls that Sakena works with, it matters whether or not they can go to school ––for their own future and for my sons’ future. Because the world they inherit will be a better one for us all if girls in every country have the same right to education in a safe environment as their brothers.
Since 1993, the Global Fund for Women has channeled nearly $1 million in grants to support 28 women-led organizations working inside Afghanistan and in Afghan refugee camps in Pakistan.