The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has contributed a $625,000 grant to The Linda Norgrove Foundation in an effort to provide greater access to education and build a network of 40 libraries across the war-torn region of Afghanistan through a community literacy project called Afghanistan Reads.

Afghanistan Reads will be launched in 2013 by the Canadian Women for Women in Afghanistan (CW4WAfghan), a non-profit, non-religious, and non-political charity dedicated to advancing access to education for women in Afghanistan. The objective of Afghanistan Reads will be to provide 840 women with literacy classes and an estimated 20,000 people access to community libraries.

With the country having one of the lowest literacy rates in the world as a byproduct of decades of war, this grant from USAID demonstrates its continued commitment to expanding literacy and access to education to regions experiencing continual crisis and conflict.

Literate women in Afghanistan comprise less than 20 percent of the population and, according to Unicef Afghanistan, only a third of women retain literacy skills after primary school due to this lack of access to education, thus this network of libraries will focus on providing literacy schemes for women and girls.

The Linda Norgrove Foundation is a grant-giving trust with a primary objective to fund education, health and childcare for women and children affected by the war in Afghanistan. The Foundation was established in October 2010 in the memory of Scottish aid worker Linda Norgrove, a 36-year old woman devoted to achieving prosperity and stability in the country during the rebuilding process. Norgrove was kidnapped in Kunar on September 26, 2010 and subsequently died in a rescue attempt by U.S. forces on October 8th. Norgrove’s parents established the foundation in an effort to continue her work of developing programs that provide greater access to education and incomes for women affected by the war.

Afghanistan Reads has four interlinked components – literacy learning, library services, capacity development for delivering library services, and life skills learning. Through these four components, the program will support community and home-based literacy classes and a network of libraries, in addition to community workshops. The ultimate goal of the program is to provide greater access to education and information that will help foster independent, lifelong learning for the women and girls in the country, and raise literacy rates which will lead to better economic opportunities for Afghan women and their families in the future.

Taheera S. Randolph

Sources: The Herald Scotland, Canadian Women For Women in Afghanistan, USAID, UNICEF Afghanistan, The Linda Norgrove Foundation