Laura Varlas

Waging Peace for Afghan Girls' Schools

Education, not force, is the biggest threat to oppressive regimes. This spring, we learned from ASCD Annual Conference keynote speaker Greg Mortenson that girls are the torchbearers of peace in developing nations. Teach a girl or woman to read and write, and they will use these tools to make better choices for their family, connect to the broader community, and teach their family members to read and write.

And so, it's terrible but no surprise that three Afghan girls' schools have been the targets of poison gas attacks in the past few weeks. Security, limited access (due to lack of basic infrastructure for schooling), and too few female teachers are the top barriers to education for Afghanistan's girls.

It's easy to feel powerless in light of the incredible odds against girls in places like Afghanistan. But it's important to remember that, as a whole child educator, you can spread concern, awareness, and advocacy for Afghan girls to your students and colleagues. Mortenson started the pennies for peace campaign—showing students the sort of momentum that can build from the smallest of actions. You can get started simply by talking to your students about the connections between education equity and peace. The United Nations Girls' Education Initiative has a ton of resources and conversation starters, organized by country.

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