Even nearly 15 years after the fall of the Taliban, issues of safety, a lack of female teachers, and cultural pressures combine to prevent girls from getting an education.
“The status of girls’ education in Afghanistan right now, if I could sum it up in one word, is precarious,” says Beth Murphy, a filmmaker who has been working in the region for nearly a decade.
Murphy’s latest documentary, What Tomorrow Brings, sheds light on one community’s efforts to combat this unfortunate reality. The film follows the growth of the Zabuli Education Center, a K-12 school built by Razia Jan in a small village outside Kabul that now educates over 480 girls.
Upon returning to Afghanistan after the war, Jan saw the blow dealt to women’s education by the Taliban. Despite facing resistance from men in her community, Jan has successfully grown the school since its inception in 2008.
Murphy, founder of Principle Pictures, recently partnered with The Ground Truth Project to continue documenting the school’s progress. She praised Jan’s “holistic approach” to change, one which effectively earned the support of the community.
“The change has been really dramatic, the change in perception, the change in mindset. I think we would say it’s incredible if it happened in a generation, and here it’s happened in eight years.” Murphy says.
Thanks to this support, seven girls celebrated becoming the school’s first graduating class in November 2015. Jan ensured they would continue their education by launching a crowdfunding campaign, which raised over USD$120,000 to build the first women’s community college in rural Afghanistan.
All the graduates are enrolled in the midwifery program at the Razia Jan Institute. The health clinic at the school will function as a teaching hospital while also providing much needed healthcare services to the community.
What Tomorrow Brings is set to be released in early 2016. Murphy is launching a pilot program with Facing History and Ourselves to bring the film into classroom and community settings.
“I’ll try to keep people talking about it and caring about it,” she says.
Though schools are still at risk of attack, current estimates place the number of girls enrolled in schools at 2.5 million, a vast improvement from the enrollment under the Taliban. Murphy said she’s seen the situation improve dramatically over the past eight years and hopes Jan’s model can be replicated in other communities.