The CW4WAfghan organization aims to reduce poverty in Afghanistan by providing education opportunities to women and their families. Additionally, they seek to educate Canadians about human rights issues in Afghanistan.
Mission and Purpose
Over two decades ago, the Taliban controlled Afghanistan with a narrow mindset and strict control. Women and girls faced extreme poverty and oppression, living as property in a male-dominated society and rarely seen or heard by the outside world. In response, Canadian Women for Women in Afghanistan (CW4WAfghan) was established in 1996 by Canadians dedicated to enhancing the well-being of Afghan women and girls. CW4WAfghan is a nonprofit organization with thirteen volunteer chapters throughout Canada, and it is a federally registered charity that is non-religious and non-political. Canadians and Afghan women have been working together to improve human rights, end women's oppression, and provide opportunities for Afghan women to live with dignity and purpose. Both parties believe that education is the key to true peace in Afghanistan. The CW4WA is dedicated to advancing education and opportunities for Afghan women and their families while also educating Canadians about human rights in Afghanistan. They aim to create sustainable education programs and engage Canadians as global citizens.[i]
Origins and Development
Back in 1996, writer Deborah Ellis was actively striving to draw attention to the dire situation of Afghan women following the Taliban's takeover of Afghanistan. Ellis established a casual organization known as Women for Women in Afghanistan. Later that year, Janice Eisenhauer and Carolyn crossed paths while pursuing their degrees in International Development at the University of Calgary, Reicher from Calgary. After learning about Afghan women's human rights violations under the Taliban regime, a group of Canadian women felt compelled to help tangibly and effectively. They met with Deb Ellis in Toronto in 1998 and began organizing. Janice and Carolyn led the effort, eventually growing into a national organization called Canadian Women for Women in Afghanistan (CW4WA).
Meanwhile, Deb travelled to refugee camps in Pakistan and Russia to meet Afghan women and girls and wrote stories about her experiences. She returned with inspiring stories and a crucial guiding principle: "Listen to the voices of Afghan women. “Sally Armstrong's journalism, including her groundbreaking 1997 article in Homemakers magazine, brought attention to the human rights crisis faced by Afghan women and girls. During her travels, she visited Taliban-controlled Afghanistan. In 1998, co-founder Janice Eisenhauer signed CW4WAfghan's first by-laws. Armstrong also wrote two books, Veiled Threat and Bitter Roots and Tender Shoots, which shed light on Afghan women's difficulties while fighting for their rights.
CW4WAfghan is a thriving organization comprising various members, including individual volunteers, local chapters, donors, supporters, and two staff teams in Canada and Kabul. Together, they work toward the common goal of promoting human rights for Afghan women by providing them with greater access to education and life-changing opportunities.
Deborah Ellis is a renowned author who has written several award-winning young-adult novels, including The Breadwinner Trilogy and "My Name is Parvana." The stories revolve around the lives of eleven-year-old Parvana and her friend Shauzia, who live in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan, and depict the strength, courage, and hope of children who struggle to survive war, poverty, and oppression. Deborah has generously donated all royalties from her books to CW4WAfghan, resulting in over $2 million in grants for education initiatives for Afghan women and girls. Thanks to the contributions of numerous individual donors, hundreds of projects have been initiated to benefit women in Afghanistan, amounting to millions of dollars. Many years ago, Canadians asked, "What can We do?" and took action to fight for the fundamental rights of Afghan women and girls. By listening to them, Canadians were able to respond with solidarity and ensure that these rights were not only written on paper but also practiced in real life. Remember, "Human rights are universal," and "we can work together to uphold them'.
Organizational Structure, Membership, and Funding
The CW4WAfghan is a registered charity in Canada (Canada Revenue Agency #887718203RR0001) and a nonprofit corporation registered with Industry Canada under #415380-4. It is authorized to operate under the Alberta Government Charities Act (#309874).
In 1998, CW4WAfghan became a nonprofit corporation in May 2003 and a registered charity in February 2009. The organization is governed by a Board of Directors of at least three elected Officer positions and up to six additional Directors, per the organization's CRA-approved by-laws. The officers include the National President, National Vice President, National Secretary, and National Treasurer. Directors and officers are nominated and elected by voting members at annual general meetings.[i]
The CW4WA is funded by the Canadian government as well as donations.
Specializations, Methods and Tools
CW4WAfghan has a detailed set of policies and procedures that govern various aspects of the organization's operations, including program implementation, financial accountability, and human resource management. The Afghan Republic government legally recognized the organization, and it is a registered charity in good standing with Canada Revenue Agency. It undergoes an annual audit of its Canadian records to ensure compliance with regulations governing charities. These policies and procedures provide that the organization operates transparently and with integrity. Additionally, it has an extensive project review and approval process that evaluates proposals, competitive RFPs, budgets, and required narrative and financial reporting. It conducts site visits to verify that operations align with field reports. Their performance measurement system regularly collects pertinent data from funded services. It enforces policies and guidelines for projects its partners implement and a procurement policy for goods and services. The organization uses legally binding contracts. Their travel directive policy is implemented, and they have a zero-tolerance anti-corruption policy. The CW4WA policies offer guidelines for implementing projects, contracts, and reporting templates. It also establishes clear expectations for financial accountability to ensure efficient project management when working with other organizations. All expenses are reviewed and verified through proper documentation.
Major Projects and Events
Investments in Basic Education: At CW4WAfghan, it believes that having the right to education goes beyond simply having access to school. It also means having access to quality education. While Afghanistan has made significant progress in increasing the number of schools, teachers, and students from 2002 to 2021, there were still significant challenges regarding the quality of education. That is why it has been Investing in Basic Education Program focuses on improving the quality of education by training teachers and providing them with more resources through various projects such as The Lantern Fund 2025, The Gender Equity in Teacher Training to Improve Girls' Education (GETT) Project, Getting Girls Back to School, School and Library Starter Kits, School Support, and Accessible Storybooks for Children. Through the Learning Baskets initiative, it continued to develop and distribute local language reading materials and more for Afghan children and their families. To ensure that even those displaced or living in remote areas could access education, It offered virtual learning opportunities through initiatives like DD Classroom and DD Courses.
Additionally, it provided professional development to displaced school leaders and teachers. It aimed to enhance free and open resources like the Darakht-e Danesh Digital Library. It made education more accessible to all Afghan children, youth, and adults in Afghanistan and beyond.[i]
Technology for Education: The organization believes technology can be a powerful tool to help people exercise their right to education. Everyone should have access to education, and their Technology for Education Program provides innovative tools to help Afghan citizens gain knowledge and skills essential for the 21st century. The program's virtual education tools, collectively known as Knowledge Tree or Darakht-e Danesh in Dari, enable thousands of people in Afghanistan and nearby regions to access education.
The FTZ School in Kabul was a local community school that served school-age girls in grades 1-10. The school operated in two shifts and had a budget of $106,000 for 2018; the school had a safe building and classrooms, trained teachers who received ongoing professional development, after-school program instructors, learning resources, school notebooks, pencils, fuel for heat in winter, a growing library, a modern computer lab, a playground, and a learning garden. CW4WAfghan's quality assurance staff also supported the school administration in improving the quality of learning. Furthermore, experienced teachers were connected with junior or new teachers through a unique coaching and mentoring component, and a performance measurement framework has been developed to track progress and identify areas needing improvement. In March 2019, nine girls advanced to the new Grade 11 class, and 368 female students were enrolled. The school employs 16 teachers in the morning and afternoon shifts, and seven teachers provide after-school instruction. Thanks to the Rotary Clubs of Kabul and Germany, the school kitchen has been updated, including a much-needed water purifier.
The Wakhan Initiative for Literacy, Education & Development (WILED) was created to address the need for better education in the remote area of Badakhshan province. The Better Business Society, in response to a request from local activists, collaborated with CW4WAfghan to assess the situation and find ways to help. The project aimed to improve the quality of life and increase the capacity for managing and delivering quality education in Wakhan. The local implementing partner, SALEH, is funded by the Better Business Society and its partner donors. The project included basic literacy classes for women and men and upcoming activities such as life skills, librarianship, and reading mentorship in 2019.
Serving a Broad Community: Learning to read as an adult differs from how children learn to read, as adults must develop automaticity, fluency, and comprehension. It is challenging for adults to achieve a reading speed of at least 45 words per minute. It is similar to a literate person trying to learn a new script, like an English speaker trying to learn Cyrillic. Adults struggle to adjust to recognizing and retaining unknown letters, which is more complicated than children who have brains that are more adaptable to learning new languages and scripts.
Adult Literacy: CW4WAfghan has used a unique approach to teaching adult literacy based on Dr. Helen Abadzi's perceptual learning method. Dr. Abadzi, a cognitive psychologist, uses evidence from neuroscience to understand how adults learn reading, and her method has been tested in multiple languages and script combinations in different countries. In 2019, CW4WAfghan tested the technique for the first time in Afghanistan under Dr. Abadzi's guidance and achieved consistently better results than other methods. The approach emphasized repeated practice to gain automaticity, and teachers were trained to guide students in literacy classrooms.
In 2018, the CW4WAfghan Community Literacy Classes and Libraries (AR!) The budget was $39,300. This program aimed to support the development of literacy skills among adult women and out-of-school girls in small Afghan village communities. The classes were held in the homes of local women who received a small stipend for hosting and were taught by trained local teachers. The program also provided access to a growing collection of books, life skills training, and hygiene kits. Each class offered basic literacy classes for approximately 25 female students for one year. The project successfully registered 97 literacy students across three classes in the Karte Naw district of Kabul province. The program's goal was to help reinforce literacy skills, nurture a culture of reading, and foster independent, lifelong learning for illiterate Afghan women with few other learning options.
The Darakht-e Danesh Library (DD Library) had a budget of $67,800 in 2018. It was a digital collection of open educational resources (OERs) for Afghan classrooms. The resources included lesson plans, pedagogical tools, exercises, experiments, reading texts, workbooks, curricula, and other materials. Both primary and secondary teachers could access over 3,500 resources in more than 350 subject categories in Dari, Pashto, and English. The library aimed to increase access to quality, locally adapted educational resources, encourage teachers to consult various information sources and support teachers in adapting, creating, and sharing their resources with others. The library had users from all 34 provinces of Afghanistan and over 20 different countries. In 2018, the library added 568 new resources, bringing the total to over 3,500 resources in seven languages, including Dari, Pashto, English, Nooristani, Uzbeki, Swaji, and Munji.
In the budget for 2018, CW4WAfghan allocated $27,000 towards grants for Implementing Partner Organizations and scholarships for students. CW4WAfghan has a long history of working with trusted partners to achieve their goals in critical areas. These grants provided flexible funding to meet unique project needs. Examples of contributions included PARSA's Sisters 4 Sisters (S4S) program, which offered mentorship and personalized attention to at-risk women and girls, the Afghan Children's Songbook project, which aimed to design, produce and print the first edition of Bood Nabood, Traditional Afghan Children's Folktales, Hoopoe Books, which sought to fund the translation, printing and distribution of 3000 Pashai Pashto edition of a children's storybook for Pashai speaking children in Afghanistan, and the Shafia Fund, established in memory of the three young Shafia sisters and their aunt from Kingston, ON, with funds given as scholarships to female students for study.
Afghanistan Policy Dialogue, Amplifying Afghan Women's Voices: The Afghanistan Policy Dialogue Program (APDP) was created to address the growing threats to the rights of women and girls in Afghanistan during negotiations with the Taliban in February 2020 when the Doha Agreement was signed. As of August 2021, the program's primary focus has been advocating for restoring education rights for women and girls in Afghanistan, ensuring their safe passage out of the country, and evacuating those at risk. The APDP also emphasizes the importance of Afghan women's voices, views, and experiences by amplifying the voices of women activists on Canadian and international platforms in hopes that their demands will be recognized and met. To stay updated on how the CW4WA can help Afghan women, check out the CW4WA Advocacy Page. It provides letter-writing templates, social media posts, and other resources to engage its members, partners, and chapter networks in spreading the message of Afghan women's demands. Additionally, it offers an Advocacy Toolkit, hosts events and campaigns, and provides up-to-date information. The organization also helps Afghan women's networks and activists reach policy-makers and collaborates with like-minded organizations in Canada and globally.
Public Engagement: CW4WAfghan members promote social justice and women's rights in Afghanistan and beyond. They strive to raise awareness and funds to support Afghan women and girls through various activities. Their efforts reflect a commitment to global citizenship and solidarity in creating positive change.
Grants and Scholarships: The CW4WA Grants and Scholarships program promotes education by supporting partners and individuals making a positive impact. The program has three main components: The Shafia Fund, which provides scholarships to Afghan women pursuing higher education and facing financial hardships; Remote Communications Assistance, which supplies devices and internet connectivity for virtual learning; and Small Grants, which provides funding for partner organizations in Afghanistan whose projects align with its objectives. Additionally, the program awards the annual Champion for Education in Afghanistan Award to recognize exceptional individuals, projects, programs, and organizations that have made significant contributions to supporting education for girls and women in Afghanistan.
Supporting At-Risk Afghans: The events of August 2021 caused turmoil in Afghanistan, leading millions of Afghans to leave their country. Many more are expected to follow suit in the coming months and years.[ii] 
CW4WAfghan was established in 1998. Since then, It has trained over 10,000 teachers, provided literacy classes for almost 5,000 students, distributed nearly 300 school library starter kits, established 40 community libraries and 262 science labs, and shared numerous resources through our Darakht-e Danesh Digital Library.[i]
[ii] CW4WAfgahnistan, Annual Report. (2018). Pp;7–12: https://cw4wafghan.ca/governance/
Analysis and Lessons Learned
To improve literacy skills, it is important to practice reading consistently. Encouraging a love for reading can enhance literacy culture. The CW4WA literacy classes provide classroom libraries with books in the local language and for all levels, and they believe literacy should be integrated into learners' lives outside of school. To achieve this, CW4CA provides access to relevant materials, such as the life skills curriculum, which is incorporated into the literacy program for their students. "I learned more about teaching methods and techniques. Thanks to this training, our capacity is built up, and our knowledge is increased." One program participant said.
Literacy teacher trainee: Acquiring foundational literacy skills through literacy classes can pave the way for formal education for both men and women. For this reason, literacy classes must be designed with a purposeful structure that promotes a smooth transition into regular school. The AR! project utilized a tool called the Personal Learning Plan to achieve this goal. Moreover, literacy skills have an intergenerational impact. Research indicates that literate mothers raise literate daughters. To foster this link between parental literacy and support for children's education, the project included strategies that encouraged women to read to their children.
Having a private space like a library is crucial for women to interact with other women, share ideas, and gain independence. Community involvement is essential for CW4WAfghan's library projects, as they only open libraries when communities invite them and have no significant security concerns. Cost-sharing is also encouraged to promote community ownership, where the community contributes to the library and literacy centre space. Additionally, the project focused on providing mentorship, training, and monitoring to teachers to promote reading and library usage through hands-on pedagogy and exposure visits to libraries.[i]
It is sad to mention that Afghanistan's education system has experienced a significant setback despite 20 years of dedicated efforts to improve it. This is due to the Taliban's return to power on August 15, 2021. Unfortunately, the Taliban has prohibited Afghan women and girls from pursuing education and work, causing a devastating blow. Consequently, Afghan women are currently living under the same restrictions as they did in 1996.
In 2021, CW4WAfgahnistan printed and distributed 15,810 storybooks and provided 234 mental health books to students. They also translated 220 storybooks and had 18 media interviews or articles published by staff. These details were included in their annual report, found on pages.[i]
 Candian Women for Women in Afghanistan. Official Website: https://cw4wafghan.ca/governance/
 Candian Women for Women in Afghanistan. Official Website: https://cw4wafghan.ca/
 Candian Women for Women in Afghanistan. Official Website: https://cw4wafghan.ca/literacy/
 CW4WAfgahnistan, Annual Report. 2013. Pp;4 : https://cw4wafghan.ca/governance/
 CW4WAfgahnistan, Annual Report. 2018. Pp;7-12: https://cw4wafghan.ca/governance/
 CW4WAfgahnistan, Annual Report. 2021. Pp:9-18 https://cw4wafghan.ca/literacy/
 Candian Women for Women in Afghanistan. Official Website: https://cw4wafghan.ca/about-us/