Using Mobile Phones to Accelerate Literacy Education and Empower Afghan Women

The Afghan Institute of Learning (AIL) implemented the Mobile Literacy program between May 2011 and May 2012. The pilot utilized mobile phone technology to promote basic literacy among women in rural Afghanistan by supplementing AIL’s already successful classroom literacy sessions with instruction delivered via text messaging. Fifty students were selected from two of AIL’s Learning Centers in rural Afghanistan. Each student received a handset that ran on the standard 2G system, a phone card, and a notebook. Teachers sent daily texts to the students, who read the incoming message and responded via return txt message, demonstrating reading comprehension and writing skills. Students attended twice-monthly evaluation sessions to monitor progress and receive assistance in addition to attending class.

Ultimately, the program halved the time in which students were able to  attain literacy at a basic 2 level. The pilot introduced literacy to underserved women and girls; demonstrated the value of education for all; promoted economic growth and access to information for Afghan women; laid the foundations for training in computers and ICT; and increased personal security by providing a means of emergency communication.

Sakena Yacoobi

Dr. Sakena Yacoobi  is Executive Director and founder of the Afghan Institute of Learning (AIL) and oversaw the development and implementation of the mobile literacy project. Established in 1995 to provide education and health services to women and children, AIL has served more than 10 million Afghans by working at the grassroots. AIL was the first organization to offer human rights and leadership training to Afghan women and to open Women’s Learning Centers.  Dr. Yacoobi is an Ashoka Fellow and Skoll Social Entrepreneur and has received many other awards, including: the Henry R. Kravis Award for Leadership, the NED Democracy Award, the Peter Gruber Foundation Women’s Rights Prize,  the Americans for UNFPA Board of Advocates Award, the 2010 Jonathan Mann Award for Global Health and Human Rights, the Schwab Foundation Asia Social Entrepreneur of the Year Award, the Afghan National Peace Award,  the German Media Award, The Asian Foundation Lotus Leadership Award, and the World’s Children’s Prize Honorary Award.

Dr. Yacoobi has honorary doctorates from three Universities for her distinguished contribution to society, serves on the Board of the Global Fund for Women, as an advisor to the Fetzer Institute, and is Vice-President of the board of Creating Hope International.

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