19-year-old Fatima lives with her parents and seven siblings in Sari Takaghal village of Lal-wa-Sarjangal district in Ghor, a province in the central highlands of Afghanistan. Ghor, whose name literally translates as 'mountain', is one of the most remote and difficult to reach areas in the country, causing a wide range of accessibility problems for the people who live there.

For Fatima, because the closest school to her village is a 90 minutes’ walk on tough, mountainous terrain, she did not have the opportunity to get an education. In rural areas, distance from schools is a common reason for drop-out or non-attendance for both boys and girls - as such, the province has some of the lowest literacy rates in the country. But this has disproportionate effect on girls, as distance from schools is closely tied to conservative notions of honour: girls are more likely to be harassed when travelling long distances alone, which cultural norms dictate could bring shame on a family.

Aside from the physical inaccessibility of Fatima's nearest school, patriarchal norms also meant that her father actively discouraged her from getting an education, as he wanted her to stay at home to help her mother with housework.

With education comes economic empowerment

Over the last year and a half, Fatima has taken part in one of Afghanaid’s six-month training courses in poultry-rearing, as well as a nine-month course in basic literacy. Alongside this, she has taken part in courses in enterprise development, financial management, and women’s rights. She has also received 15 chickens to rear. Armed with her new knowledge and confidence, alongside the support, equipment and chickens provided by Afghanaid, Fatima decided to start a small business selling eggs.

I was so happy to get the opportunity to receive some kind of education," she said. “I was really active in the classes and learned so much! I can now count my own money, I can count the number of eggs my chickens produce, and I have a proper understanding of buying and selling”.

At first, she sold her eggs to some of her neighbours and other people living in the village. However, she quickly realised she could increase her income if she started selling her eggs in the district capital, as eggs sold for higher prices at the market. After approaching Afghanaid for support, Fatima established a contract with a local shopkeeper, who sells Fatima's eggs in the central market of Ferozkoh. She is now earning 1100 Afghanis (10 GBP) on a monthly basis, with enough profit to start expanding her business and increase the number of chickens she owns.

Fatima is hopeful that she will be able to continue her education, and is helping her younger sisters with their learning, teaching them how to read and write using some of the books she bought with her earnings.

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