Monthly Archives: June 2017

The Importance of Literacy

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Literacy in a population is defined as the number of people, aged 15 and older, who can both read and write. In 2015, only 38.2% of Afghanistan’s population was literate – 52% of men, and 24.2% of women. In Pakistan, 57.9% of the population was literate – 69.5% of men and 45.8% of women. Why are literacy rates so low in both of these countries? Why is this important, and how can we improve it?

There are a number of factors that contribute to low literacy rates. Literacy is affected by location, and is typically lower in rural areas. In cities, there are usually higher literacy rates. For example, in Islamabad, with a population of 2 million, literacy reached nearly 96%. Women in both countries have significantly lower literacy rates than men. This is often due to cultural norms and traditional roles. But what happens if we allow girls to receive an education?

Literacy improves self-confidence. Being able to read and write empowers individuals to be active in their community, and involved in social discussions. There is also evidence that literacy improves health. When individuals are able to read and write, they are able to make better choices with their healthcare. Investing in education can create changes over generations. Women who receive an education are more than two times as likely to send their own children to school. Additionally, it is also economically advantageous for girls to receive an education. Countries can lose up to $1 billion of their GDP in a year by not providing girls the same educational opportunities as boys. An extra year of school can increase a girl’s income by 20% when she is an adult.

Barakat works hard to provide education at no cost to our students. This includes classes, uniforms, books, stationary, firewood, clean water, health services, and teacher salaries. Donations from supporters of Barakat make our work possible.

$50 = 1 year of literacy

$90 = 1 year of elementary school

$110 = 1 year of middle school

$170 = 1 year of high school

$1,300 = 1 entire literacy program for a year

For more information, or if you would like to donate to Barakat, please click here. Literacy improves people’s lives, and Barakat allows communities to thrive.

 

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Geography and Environment

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We believe that it is incredibly important for supporters of Barakat to learn about the landscape, culture, and people of both Pakistan and Afghanistan. Although we work in both countries, they are not easily comparable. These blogs will try to give readers a better understanding of both countries, while emphasizing each of their rich and unique cultures and environments.

A flight from Boston to Islamabad, the capital of Pakistan, or Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan, would take nearly 20 hours – that is, if you flew one of the more direct routes. Both cities are over 6,500 miles from Barakat’s home base in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Although Barakat team members are located all over the world, we work closely together to promote our goal: helping communities thrive through education.

To give our US readers some context, Pakistan is 796,095 square kilometers, or about twice the size of California. While there are mountains, including K2, and cooler temperatures in the north, much of Pakistan is covered with dry, hot deserts. Due to the country’s location, there are frequent earthquakes. Pakistan has a small border with the Arabian Sea, and neighbors Iran, Afghanistan, China, and India. In 2016, Pakistan’s population reached over 201 million people.

Afghanistan is slightly smaller, at 652,230 square kilometers, or about the size of Texas. The weather is usually very dry, with hot summers and colder winter months. The country is covered in mountainous terrain, including Noshaq mountain, which stands at 24,580 feet above sea level. Earthquakes are also relatively frequent in these mountains. Afghanistan is a landlocked country, and borders Pakistan, Iran, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, China, and India. Afghanistan’s population in 2016 reached over 33 million people.

Each country also faces a number of environmental issues. Approximately 16 million people in Pakistan do not have access to clean and safe drinking water, and 68 million people do not have have access to sanitation. While these numbers are staggering, many organizations are working to promote clean water and sanitation in these areas, including WaterAid, Charity:water, and the Al-Khidmat Foundation.

Afghanistan also faces a shortage of clean water and sanitation. Only 30% of individuals in rurals areas have access to safe water, and only 29% of Afghans have access to sanitary bathrooms. A number of organizations are currently working to improve Afghans’ quality of life by advocating for clean water and sanitation in the country, including the American Friendship Foundation, UNICEF, and Zam Zam Water.

There is a link between access to clean water and girls’ education. Globally, it is the responsibility of women and girls to collect water for their families. Averaging over 3 miles per day and 5 gallons per trip, many girls can miss school because of this task. A global effort is needed to improve access to clean water and sanitation in both Afghanistan and Pakistan. As a result, women and girls will have greater opportunities to participate in the economy, further their education, and improve the lives of themselves and their families.