For many of the women in Schisto refugee site, it's the first time they are in a class room. PHOTO: DRC

Afghan women take their first language lessons in Greece

DRC’s classes are changing the life of Afghan women in Schisto hosting site for refugees. English, Greek and Farsi classes help women catch up with time and dream big.


Education is essential for the development of all human beings and key to their resilience and independence. Yet, millions of refugee women and girls have limited access to schooling making education an unrealizable aspiration.

This was also the case for 20 Afghan women who fled their home country seeking asylum in Europe. They are now residents of the Schisto hosting site in Attica, waiting for the conclusion of their asylum procedures. Almost all of them are illiterate.

“We never had the opportunity to be educated in our country,” Homaira says; “we faced many difficulties that prevented us from going to school”.

Greece edu Afghan women

Exposure to conflict affects refugees in several ways, ranging from direct physical harm to persistent and irreversible effects related to their future. Refugee girls’ educational attainment can be particularly compromised in conflict zones reflected in higher school dropout rates due to harassment, sexual assault and kidnap on the way to school according to a relevant UNHCR report. The report also highlights that social and cultural conventions often impede girls’ attendance to school. 

However, even after leaving conflict behind, refugee women and girls struggle with a difficult life in exile. Limited access to education perpetuates and magnifies challenges related to finding work, staying healthy, holding on to dignity and hope.

The Danish Refugee Council introduced the Afghan women to literacy for the first time, providing English language lessons and gradually offering lessons in their mother tongue, while recently Greek language classes are also provided. The women between 23 and 67 years old, have responded with enthusiasm.  

“Their commitment and dedication exceeded all expectations. These women clearly show that education is a life-long process. While I teach them English, they have taught me something too: women's resilience and strength,” says Alexandra, the DRC English teacher. 

“We feel lucky that we are offered the opportunity to attend classes” says Homaira, “It is never too late to learn!”  

Alexandra says that besides learning to read or write, for most women this is a chance to leave their prefabricated houses and meet other women like themselves in a safe place.

“I love seeing them coming to the school premises in groups, laughing and chatting. In fact, they view the lessons in a holistic manner; as a language learning experience, a chance to socialize and an act of empowerment. It is amazing to see how their confidence to communicate and interact in a new way has gradually build up,” she adds.

To ensure that refugee women and girls can unlock their potential in their new homes and to give them confidence to speak their minds and share their experiences with the world, DRC seeks to provide them with the proper tools through education.

“Apart from the actual transfer of knowledge, we also support the empowerment of the most vulnerable groups such as women, children and illiterate population, through inclusion, participation, learning and decision making inside the classroom,” DRC Education Team Leader, Maria Markaki explains.

DRC organizes non-formal educational activities with the support of the European Commission's department for European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO) in nine mainland hosting sites in Greece.