San Francisco, October 18, 2012 — The Asia Foundation today announced a new initiative, Carnegie Corporation Scholarships for Afghan Women, to provide university scholarships to academically qualified and financially disadvantaged Afghan women. This Carnegie Corporation-funded program will support a total of 88 university scholarships at both public and private universities within Afghanistan; 78 Afghan women will enroll in undergraduate degree programs and 10 women university professors will enroll in advanced degree programs. Scholarship recipients will represent all geographic regions of Afghanistan.
The project is supported through a $1 million grant from Carnegie Corporation of New York and will run through March 2017.Â The scholarship program will be complemented by a $50,000 grant from Carnegie Corporation to the Foundation’s Books for Asia program, which will support library development efforts at select Afghan universities.
This scholarship program is both timely and critical for the future of Afghanistan. When the Taliban regime fell in late 2001, Afghan women had one of the highest illiteracy rates in the world â€“ only 10% of Afghan women could read and write.
Since then, Afghanistan has made great strides in enrolling girls in both primary and secondary school.Â However, women still face significant barriers in gaining a university or post-graduate education; women remain dramatically under-represented in institutions of higher learning, both as students and faculty members. This scholarship initiative will make an important contribution to closing the gender gap in higher education, recognized by the Afghan Government as a high priority, and give Afghan women the chance to fully contribute to national development.
“In my view,” said Vartan Gregorian, President of Carnegie Corporation, “when you educate a woman you educate a whole generation. Women are the seeds of civilization so we are investing in Afghan women because advancing their education is an important milestone in Afghanistan’s growth and progress.Â Not only do they represent almost half their country’s population, their aspirations embody the great potential of Afghanistan’s future.”
The Asia Foundation has been at the forefront of empowering women in Asia for almost 60 years. In Afghanistan, girls’ and women’s education has been a key focus since the Foundation reopened its office in Kabul in January 2002. The Foundation recognizes that the future of Afghanistan depends heavily on the ability of young women as well as men to lead the country out of extreme poverty, illiteracy, ill-health, and instabilityâ€”this ability is a direct product of education.
“On behalf of our partners and program recipients in Afghanistan, we are grateful for this generous support from Carnegie Corporation,” said David D. Arnold, President of The Asia Foundation. “This partnership highlights our organizations’ mutual understanding that educating a new generation of young Afghan women is the best investment we can possibly make toward the overall development of a peaceful and prosperous Afghanistan.”
Recent Foundation education-related projects have included improvements at two large girls’ schools, Rabia-e-Balkhi Girls’ School and the Lama-e-Shaheed Girls’ School, and establishing services at the first women’s dormitory at Kabul University.Â Â It has also played a key role in the establishment of the American University of Afghanistan and maintains a close relationship with the institution.
As a further commitment to Afghanistan’s development, and to complement the Carnegie Corporation University Scholarships for Afghan Women, Carnegie Corporation awarded a $50,000 grant to The Asia Foundation’s Books for Asia program.Â The grant will enable Books for Asia to ship and distribute approximately 18,000 books throughout Afghanistan, contribute special collections in key subject areas to the Carnegie Corporation Scholarships for Afghan Women university libraries, and conduct training to improve library public services.