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During the time the Taliban controlled much of Afghanistan, the Afghan Institute of Learning operated around 80 underground schools that provided girls in particular with access to education. This also involved establishing learning centres in refugee camps in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Today, although girls largely have access to education, the Afghan Institute of Learning continues to assist them. The organisation runs around 150 centres in which girls of all ages and levels of education are cared for and attend lessons. The centres also offer health care, medical treatment and health education.
The centres train their own teachers, who, alongside teaching skills, also learn how to deal with issues such as human rights, leadership, democracy and peace. Depending on the regional requirements, the centres also provide vocational training.
Most centres have now developed into ‘women’s networking places’, secure spaces for women where women can learn with and from each other and that act as secure discussion forums. The centres also constitute the only way in which many women can gain access to the internet. The organisation’s founder, Dr Sakena Yacoobi, describes its work in terms of a quiet revolution: although the women do not demonstrate on the streets, they are educating themselves – partly in secret – are becoming more confident and competent, and are gradually learning to take the decisions that affect their lives by themselves.