Cash transfer supports girls’ education in Afghanistan

UNICEF Afghanistan’s first education programme providing cash transfer to vulnerable families with adolescent girls

Monique Awad and Salwa Nezami
26 November 2020


Herat, Afghanistan, 22 November 2020 – Hasiba, a 14-year old girl enjoys learning and going to school.  Yet, buying stationery materials has become impossible.

‘I love to go to school to learn so that I can land a good job in the future to support my family,’ says Hasiba.  ‘Yet, my father is jobless for over a month now, and he cannot afford buying us pens and notebooks.’

Last month, Abdul Haq, Hasiba’s father had an accident, which got him jobless.  As a household head of 8 members, he can no longer afford the most basic needs of his family.

“Yesterday my daughter Hasiba asked me for money to buy some stationery,’ says Abdul Haq with sadness in his eyes.  “I even didn’t have 10 AFN ($0.12) to buy her a pen and notebook, I felt very disappointed.’

In Afghanistan, 52 per cent of people live in multidimensional poverty. Poverty is highest among children reaching 56 per cent.  And amid COVID19, the situation has worsened pushing more families into deep poverty.

With 3.7 million children out-of-school in Afghanistan, more than 60 per cent of them are girls. UNICEF with funding from the US Department of State -  Secretary's Office of Global Women's Issues (US SOGWI), is supporting adolescent girls’ education through the Afghan Women’s Leadership Initiative.

‘This initiative aims to support and empower adolescent girls,’ says Aye Aye Than, Adolescent Specialist, UNICEF Afghanistan.  ‘Through support to girls’ education, we can prevent child marriage.’

This programme includes community engagement and mobilization to prevent child marriage and encourage girls’ education.  It also supports the establishment of safe spaces, and the provision of life skills and livelihood training.

Yet, for many girls like Hasiba, the main barrier to going to school is lack of money.

UNICEF Afghanistan/2020/Karimi

Cash transfers make girls’ education possible

As part of this initiative, UNICEF launched a cash transfer programme to support adolescent girls’ education.  The programme helps to reduce the impact of the conflict and COVID19 pandemic on vulnerable families, and improve their access basic services, especially girls’ education.

In Herat, 472 families in need, who have adolescent girls aged between 10 and 15 years benefitted from this cash transfer. 

‘Families are receiving a one-off unconditional and unrestricted cash transfer of 19,500 AFN ($255),’ says Than.  ‘UNICEF has no restrictions on spending of the cash transfers, leaving the decision on how to spend the cash transfer with the family. However, families are encouraged to use the money to support their adolescent girls’ education.’

Prior to cash distribution, the implementing partner in Herat, Women Activities & Social Services Association (WASSA), carried out awareness raising and consultation sessions with the communities, including local government representatives.

During these sessions, the criteria of the cash transfers were clearly explained to ensure community acceptance and understanding. 

‘When I received a call about the cash distribution, I shed tears of happiness,’ says Abdul Haq.  ‘Now I can buy my children books, pens and notebooks.’

Various studies have shown that cash transfers to vulnerable families can have a positive impact on school enrollment and retention, especially for girls. 

To ensure accountability to affected population, UNICEF developed a complaints and feedback mechanism.  This enables beneficiaries and community members to report any issues related to the programme. 

“I understand the power of education,’ says Abdul Haq.  ‘I don’t want my daughter to marry until she completes her education to become an independent woman.’