Afghanistan: rebuilding girls’ education after decades of conflict

World Education Blog

Nahida, a school principal in Kabul, is the third participant in our ten-week # TeacherTuesday campaign . In Afghanistan, conflict has raged for decades, cultural opposition to girls’ schooling is deep-seated, and education for girls was banned altogether under the Taliban. Nahida describes how she has struggled for 25 years to defend and improve girls’ education in the face of gender bias and conflict that still affect her work every day.

After graduating from Kabul University in the late 1980s, Nahida became a teacher. But then the Taliban came to power.

Under the Taliban: a secret school for girls
“It was their policy to close all the schools for females. For me, it was difficult to go to school to teach. When I went to my school, the principal was a mullah and he didn’t allow me to enter and asked me after that not to come to school.  But…

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Education Under Attack: 2014 Report

The Global Coalition to Protect Education from Attack just released a  study that identifies 70 countries where attacks occurred between 2009 and 2012, including 30 where there was a pattern of deliberate attacks:

Education Under Attack 2014 is a global study that charts the scale and nature of attacks on education; highlights their impact on education – including on students, teachers and facilities; and documents the ways that governments, local communities, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and UN agencies try to reduce the impact of such violence and prevent future attacks. In doing so, it provides the most extensive documentation of attacks on education to date.

Following earlier studies that UNESCO published in 2007 and 2010, it not only examines attacks on schools, as previous research has done, but also considers military use of education facilities and more closely examines attacks on higher education.

The study’s four main aims are to:

  1. better inform international and national efforts to prevent schools, universities, students, teachers, academics and other education staff from being attacked;
  2. encourage the investigation, prosecution and punishment of the perpetrators of attacks;
  3. share knowledge about effective responses;
  4. and help those who have been attacked to recover and rebuild their lives by providing recommendations for action that the international community, governments and armed non-state groups should adopt and implement.

The Global Coalition to Protect Education from Attack (GCPEA) is a coalition of organizations that include: the Council for Assisting Refugee Academics (CARA), Human Rights Watch, the Institute of International Education/IIE’s Scholar Rescue Fund, Protect Education in Insecurity and Conflict, Save the Children, the Scholars at Risk Network, UNESCO, UNHCR and UNICEF. GCPEA is a project of the Tides Center, a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization.

The Global Coalition calls for widespread adoption of the “Lucens Guidelines for Protecting Schools and Universities from Military Use during Armed Conflict.” The Guidelines draw on international human rights and humanitarian law as well as good practice to preserve education as a safe zone in armed conflicts.

The main parts of Education under Attack 2014 are:

  • a summary providing an overview of the main points and key recommendations.
  • a methodology section outlining the methods used in the research and the principal challenges faced;
  • a global overview providing a more detailed picture of the scale, nature, motives and impact of attacks on education and the variety of responses that are being, or could be, made;
  • three thematic essays offering more depth about how schools and universities can best be protected;
  • profiles of the 30 most seriously affected countries, providing an insight into the context in which attacks take place, a detailed record of reported attacks on education during 2009-2012 and an outline of attacks during the first nine months of 2013; and
  • endnotes providing citations for every piece of information used in the study.


Source: Global Coalition to Protect Education from Attack

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Unlearning Violence: Evidence and Policies for Early Childhood Development and Peace

The World Peace Foundation is organizing an exciting conference on February 13 & 14, 2014, at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy – Tufts University.  

There is no cost to attend, registration is filling fast: interested individuals can obtain more information on the conference website.

RSVP requested: you may register for the entire conference or separate portions.

This inter-disciplinary event will showcase the best ongoing research on early childhood development and violence and peace, charting directions for future research and policy.  We have an exciting group of panelists lined up and have just finalized our schedule. Confirmed speakers include Steve Pinker, Daniel Dennett, Rima Salah, Michael Wessells, Theresa Betancourt, Dyan Mazurana, Regina Sullivan, Jennifer Batton, John Lawrence Aber and Maryanne Wolf. They will be discussing the following topics:

  • Can we become a more peaceful species?
  • Undoing the impact of violence? Perspectives from neuroscience and education
  • Violence and abuse against children
  • Translating evidence into policy 

We are also looking forward to a great keynote session around ethical education with the Venerable Tenzin Priyadarshi Rinpoche, Founder and Director of the Dalai Lama Center for Ethics and Transformative Values at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), a non-partisan collaborative think tank focused on interdisciplinary research and programs related to the development of human and global ethics. 

More information about our conference can be found on the World Peace Foundation website: at

Follow us on Twitter and tell your friends about our Facebook page. We will be live tweeting using the hashtag #unlearningviolence.

We are looking forward to seeing you there!

The Fletcher School – Tufts University – 160 Packard Ave. – Medford, MA 02155 USA

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Nonviolent Civil Resistance works: let’s spread the word!

In 2011, Erica Chenoweth and Maria Stephan published a groundbreaking study on civil resistance, Why Civil Resistance Works, the strategic logic of nonviolent conflict. While the prevailing view is that the most effective means of waging political struggle entails violence, they found that civil resistance campaigns were more than twice as successful in achieving their objectives than violent campaigns. They examined 323 nonviolent and violent campaigns between 1900-2006, involving more than 1,000 people, and that related to a country’s secession, overthrow of a dictatorship or removal of a foreign occupation. They also explore four case studies: Iran, Burma, the Philippines, and the Palestinian Territories.

Another interesting outcome of their study is that the governments of countries where the peaceful resistance took place were far more likely to become or remain stable democracies afterward. The book won several prizes including the 2012 Woodrow Wilson Foundation Award for best book published in the United States on government, politics or international affairs.

Here is a recent TED Talk by Erica Chenoweth, she discusses the promise of unarmed struggle in the 21st century. In addition to explaining why nonviolent resistance has been so effective, she also emphasizes how important it is to change the focus of social studies and what we teach in schools:

Source: Chenoweth, Erica, and Maria J. Stephan. “Why Civil Resistance Works: The Strategic Logic of Nonviolent Conflict,” in International Security, Vol. 33, No. 1 (Summer 2008), pp. 7–44.

Source: Chenoweth, Erica, and Maria J. Stephan. “Why Civil Resistance Works: The Strategic Logic of Nonviolent Conflict,” in International Security, Vol. 33, No. 1 (Summer 2008), pp. 7–44.

Chenoweth, Erica, and Maria J. Stephan. Why Civil Resistance Works: The Strategic Logic of Nonviolent Conflict. New York: Columbia University Press (2011).

Interested in learning more? Here is a presentation on External Factors in Civil Resistance by Maria Stephan & Rob Wilkinson at the 2013 Fletcher Summer Institute for the Advanced Study of Nonviolent Conflict:

Erica Chenoweth and Stephen Zunes present how repression affects nonviolent campaigns. Chenoweth notably provides empirical evidence that nonviolent movements are still effective even against brutally oppressive opponents:

To go further:

Several documentaries have been produced and are available in several languages, with a useful study guide designed for high school and college use:

  • A Force More Powerful (narrated by Ben Kingsley): it explores how nonviolent power has overcome oppression and authoritarian rule all over the world.
  • Bringing Down a Dictator (narrated by Martin Sheen): it tells the inside story of how Milosevic was brought down — not by smoke and flames– but by a campaign of political defiance and massive civil disobedience.
  • Orange Revolution: it studies the 2004 stolen election in Ukraine which brought citizens together on the streets for 17 days to defend their vote and the future of their country.
  • In production: The Egypt Project
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2013 Global Gender Gap Report: 20% of countries have made no progress or are falling behind

ScreenShot027The World Economic Forum (WEF) has just released the 2013 Global Gender Gap Report. It ranks 136 countries* (which collectively contain over 93 percent of the world’s population) based on 14 indicators used to measure the size of a nation’s gender gap in four key areas: (1) Economic participation and opportunity, which includes female labor force participation, wage equality and the percentage of women in high-ranking, highly-skilled jobs; (2) Educational attainment, which looks at female literacy, and women’s access to and enrollment in both basic and higher education; (3) Political empowerment, which examines the number of women holding political office as well as the number of female heads of state over the last 50 years; and (4) Health and survival, which is measured by comparing female and male life expectancy and mortality rates.

While these results can be helpful to assess the situation, it is important to note that this report does not account for everything that makes up the quality of a woman’s life. For example, it is illegal in both Nicaragua (#9) and the Philippines (#5) for women to terminate a pregnancy. Gender based violence is also not taken into account.


Main findings of the 2013 edition:

  • 86 out of 133 countries improved their global gender gap between 2012 and 2013, with the area of political participation seeing the greatest progress
  • Iceland has the narrowest gender gap in the world, followed by Finland, Norway and Sweden.
  • Data indicates overall slight gains in gender parity mask the emergence of twin-track paths towards economic equality in many countries and regions.
  • The G20 group of leading industrial nations has no representative in the top 10.
  • The Middle East and North Africa were the only regions not to improve in the
    past year, with Yemen at the bottom.
  • 20% of countries have made no progress or are falling behind

Overall, the Report finds Iceland the most advanced country in the world in terms of gender equality for the fifth year running. It, along with Finland (2nd), Norway (3rd) and Sweden (4th), has now closed over 80% of its gender gap. These countries are joined in the top 10 by the Philippines, which enters the top five for the first time, Ireland (6th), New Zealand (7th), Denmark (8th), Switzerland (9th) and Nicaragua (10th).

Elsewhere, in 14th place Germany is the highest-placed individual G20 economy, although it falls one place from 2012. Next is South Africa (17th, down one), the United Kingdom (level on 18th) and Canada (up one to 20th). The United States comes 23rd, also down one place since 2012. After South Africa, the next highest BRICS nation is Russia (61st), followed by Brazil (62nd), China (69th) and India (101st). At the bottom of the ranking are Chad (134th), Pakistan (135th) and Yemen (136th).

Overall Gender Gap 2013:


At the global level, the Report finds that in 2013, 96% of the health and survival gender gap has now been closed. It is the only one of the four pillars that has widened since the Report was first compiled in 2006. In terms of education, the global gender gap stands at 93%, with 25 countries having closed their gaps completely. The gender gaps for economic equality and political participation are only 60% and 21% closed respectively, although progress is being made in these areas, with political participation narrowing by almost 2% over the last year. In both developing and developed countries alike, relative to the numbers of women in tertiary education and in the workforce overall, women’s presence in economic leadership positions is limited.

Focus on Education:


*Each country out of the 136 is assigned a score between 1 (total equality) and 0 (total inequality) for each of the 14 indicators. The scores are then averaged to determine the overall rankings. According to the report’s authors, the index scores represent the “percentage of the gap that has been closed between women and men.”

Download: Full Report I Country Profiles

Press release: عربي I Español I Français I Deutsch I Português I 日本語 I 中文

Source: The World Economic Forum

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The Forgotten Education Crisis in the Central African Republic

This post originally appeared on the Education For All blog on October 21, 2013:

The Global Partnership for Education provides education funding to crisis countries

By Alice Albright

World media has captured the Syrian crisis, Egypt’s turmoil and many other disasters around the world.  But who talks about the military conflict in the Central African Republic (CAR), a landlocked country in Africa and amongst the poorest in the world? An estimated 400,000 people have fled their homes since rebels ousted the government in May and are now displaced in their own country. Many of them hiding full of fear in the forests, many of them children. In addition, 65,000 refugees from the CAR fled to neighboring countries. In total, about 10% of the total population has been uprooted by the ongoing fighting.

The UN Security Council is seriously concerned about the security situation in the CAR and approved a new resolution earlier this month focusing on humanitarian assistance, protection of human rights and the security situation. The civilian population has suffered countless acts of violence since May including looting, destruction of homes and rape, reports the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. As it goes in such conflicts, the poorest are suffering the most, losing the little they have. For many people this means losing their homes and the ability to cover basic needs: no clean water, no health care.  For the children, no education and loss of their one chance in life to attend school.

Credit: UNHCR/H. Caux

Too little funding for education in humanitarian crisis

Let’s take a closer look at the impact of the crisis on education: Schools have been closed, particularly in Ouham, Ouham-Pende and Ouaka provinces where the fighting is worst. Furniture, equipment and books have been destroyed, teachers have fled. The U.N. Consolidated Appeal has requested $195 million from the international donor community to assist with basic humanitarian aid. Of this amount, only $22.5 million is for education support of which only $7.3 million (32%) has been funded so far. Overall, just 39% of the overall humanitarian funding needs have been covered. This is shocking and another indication of the global education crisis we are facing today.

The Central African Republic is a GPE partner country

But the Central African Republic is one of 59 developing country partners of the Global Partnership for Education. The country joined the partnership in 2008 with a strong education sector plan promoting universal primary education; improving learning and expanding universal literacy and developing higher vocational education.

With GPE’s involvement, a dynamic local education group formed including the government, donor agencies, international development organizations and civil society and actively engaged in improving the education sector. UNICEF is coordinating this group, but many members have left by now due to the security situation. Between 2008 and 2013, a $37.8 million GPE education grant was used to build more than 500 new classrooms and rehabilitate another 400 allowing thousands more children to go to school. To improve the quality of learning, GPE grant funding was used to train and certify 1,500 teachers and distribute more than 1.3 million reading and math textbooks to schools. This reduced the number of students per textbook considerably, from 7 to 1.

Progress at halt

As a result, we could see real progress between 2008 and 2011. More children went to primary school, an increase from 74% in 2008 to 87 % in 2011 and more children completed primary school. While much more needed to be done, the progress that has been achieved  is now at risk of being wiped out. A rapid assessment organized in August 2013 by the Education Cluster showed that about 50% of all schools visited were still closed and almost half of the school year had been lost. Even more serious is the low school attendance rate: Out of every 100 students enrolled in school in September 2012, 70 were still not back in schools assessed in August 2013. The fear of violence and the lack of teachers were identified as the main reasons why children did not come back to school. School feeding and the restoration of order and security are key issues to encourage children to return to school and I am glad that our partners from the World Food Program are preparing for emergency school feedings for 100,000 students.

GPE helps with accelerated funding to counter the impacts of the crisis

The political and security situation remains fragile and unpredictable, but we cannot forget the children in the Central African Republic who need our help now – not next year or whenever the situation calms down. That’s why we are initiating an emergency program through our new accelerated funding process. UNICEF and the Education Cluster, our GPE partners on the ground, have prepared a proposal for $ 3.7 million.

Since its approval in April 2013, this new operational framework for effective support in conflict-affected and fragile countries (PDF) has already been applied twice – once in the South Central Somalia region providing $1.4 million and once in Yemen providing US$ 10 million for emergency education needs. With 28 out of our 59 developing country partners considered “fragile”, I suspect this won’t be the last time and I am glad to see our increased flexibility put to work.

The emergency program targets the most affected prefectures (as soon as a minimum level of security is guaranteed), in coordination with the Education Cluster’s work. It will help children to go back to school by supporting parents’ associations to rehabilitate classrooms and equip them with furniture and learning materials. The program will also provide temporary financial support to the most vulnerable teachers enabling extra courses for students to make up for missed classes while the schools were closed. The funding will also reduce parents’ contributions to school.

Let’s call on the international community to support education in the Central African Republic so that millions of children can go back to school, learn and develop their full potential for a better and healthier life.

Source: Global Partnership for Education

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The State of the World’s Girls 2013 – “In Double Jeopardy: Adolescent Girls and Disasters”

Plan’s annual report on the world’s girls investigates what happens to adolescent girls in disasters, and how to better protect girls’ rights and well-being.

Plan International just released the seventh report in its annual State of the World’s Girls series. In Double Jeopardy: Adolescent Girls and Disasters looks at what happens to adolescent girls in disasters and why. Using original research and the voices of girls themselves, it shows how adolescent girls’ rights are being ignored before, during and after disasters, both in the urgency of a disaster response, and in the gaps between humanitarian and development work.

The report examines the tension between girls’ vulnerability to violence, and the resilience they so often show in times of crisis, and explores what needs to be done.

The double discrimination of age and sex – why adolescent  girls are most at risk in disasters

Opolot, Simon, Lead Researcher. ‘Research to Investigate the Situation of Adolescent Girls in Disasters: An Analysis of Existing Interventions and Related Gaps. Synthesis Report of Studies Conducted in Ethiopia, South Sudan, Zimbabwe & Mozambique.’ Research Commissioned by Plan East and Southern Africa Regional Office, February 2013.

Why focus on adolescent girls? “This report will show in detail just how and why the humanitarian system is failing adolescent girls. It is failing to count them; it is failing to take account of their particular needs; it is failing to listen to what they have to say, and it is failing to engage them in decisions that affect them. Adolescent girls have particular needs for protection, healthcare, education and participation which are often not met, or even recognised, in an emergency.” (Plan, 2013, p. 13)

Adolescent girls are not just victims. They are resilient; they show initiative; they can lead communities and other young people, for example in disaster mitigation and planning. They just need the support they are entitled to – including greater access to relevant and life-saving information and inclusion in decision-making.” (Plan, 2013, p. 15)

Education: The silver lining – how emergencies can offer new opportunities for adolescent girls

Morgan, Jenny and Alice Behrendt. ‘Silent Suffering: The psychosocial impact of war, HIV and other high-risk situations on girls and boys in West and Central Africa’. Plan International. 2009

A study in West and Central Africa on the impact of war, HIV and other high risk situations found that in answer to the question, “What makes you happy?” the most commonly cited answer from all the children was “participation in school”. This was the case for both girls and boys, with girls in fact arguing the case more strongly than the boys. The authors said: “It appears that the simple fact of being registered for school, having one’s fees paid, receiving text books and doing well in exams, is a source of wellbeing for children.” (Executive Summary, p. 8)

Luqman, Ahmed. ‘Disasters and Girls’ Education: Pakistan Study.’ Plan International, 2013.

Hard choices – boys rather than girls? “In many countries, there is still a preference to send sons rather than daughters to school if parents are forced to choose. This may well be exacerbated in an emergency. […] Research in Pakistan compared school attendance records in eight schools in rural areas in Grades Six to Eight before and after the floods in 2010. In all cases, more girls than boys stayed out of school when the schools resumed after the floods. After the flood, 22 per cent of girls and 7 per cent of boys dropped out, making the differential even more stark.” (Plan, 2013, p. 95)

Keeping girls safe in a disaster – what humanitarian agencies need to do to support and protect girls in emergencies:

The results stress the key missing pieces of current humanitarian worklistening to what adolescent girls have to say, ensuring both their rights and their needs are catered for, and strengthening their resilience. The report recommends the following key action points:

  1. Consult adolescent girls in all stages of disaster preparedness and response.
  2. Train and mobilize women to work in emergency response teams.
  3. Provide targeted services for adolescent girls in the core areas of education, protection and sexual and reproductive health.
  4. Include funding for protection against gender-based violence in the first phase of  emergency response.
  5. Collect sex and age disaggregated data, to show the needs of adolescent girls and inform program planning.

Download the executive summary: English | French | Spanish | Portuguese

Download the full report: English | French | Spanish

Source: Plan International

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