Skip to main content

24 January 2023 - Story

My Journey to the Education Sector

A Personal Blog by Afrah Al-Sofy 


In the eyes of many outside of Yemen, I am seen as an educated woman who has a job. But in Marib, my place of birth, I am considered among the few fortunate and accomplished women. I am Afrah Al-Sofy, the Education Programme Quality Coordinator for Save the Children in Yemen.


Marib, where I come from, is a land of complexities, and the education system – specifically for girls – was not developed enough, making education for female students a rarity. Society deems education a privilege, not a right in some areas.


As a child, I used to be passionate about fashion and design. I attended classes with my elder sisters and spent hours in awe watching them learn to sew dresses. These classes were funded by donors and aimed at empowering rural women and girls by providing a means of income. At the end of each course, the trainees would showcase their outfits in a small fashion show, sometimes attended by donors. I was often chosen to model the dresses. At that time, I had many dreams that felt too far-fetched. Nonetheless, to dream was wonderful. As I grew older, I came to understand that dreams are essential and provide motivation for their pursuit. To this day, I still feel the same excitement upon achieving a new goal, as I did when I modeled in those closing ceremonies. Tragically, sometimes societal norms can stifle young girls' dreams and prevent them from reaching their full potential.


Growing up in Marib – where social norms and culture control almost all aspects of life, education included – was a challenge that I had to endure. But I was fortunate to have been born into a supportive family, where my parents always encouraged me and my sisters to pursue an education equal to that of my brothers. My father, was well-educated, having pursued his studies abroad and obtaining a Ph.D. My mother, however, was an Afghani woman who had a similar experience to ours in Marib, where cultural and societal norms dictated access to education and other services for women. Nonetheless, despite having barely received any education herself, she was a very supportive mother, and she believed in helping us become the best versions of ourselves, and she often said, "I do not want my daughters to suffer as I have, or to be deprived of their education. I want them to learn, work and have the opportunity to follow their dreams”.


After my junior education, my family decided to move to the capital city of Sana'a for better educational opportunities for my sisters and me, despite facing objections from society, extended family, and relatives. This move gave me confidence in myself and my abilities and motivated me to pursue a university degree, to be an influential person, to follow my dreams, and to aim for any achievements I set for myself.


This bold move by my family also served as a steppingstone for other girls to access education. After seeing what my sisters and I were able to achieve, other families in the village began encouraging their daughters to pursue education. My goal now is to continue to break down barriers to women's education in Marib and Yemen as a whole. Therefore, I am proud to say that I am part of the Education Programme team at Save the Children. As an aid worker, I have had the opportunity to work and support children in their quest for fair and equal opportunities for education, and to give back to the community.


However, as the conflict in Yemen escalated, I witnessed the destruction of schools, the lack of safe and functional learning spaces, and the forced dropout of children, especially girls, from their education.


The memory of my first visit to the damaged schools remains ingrained in my mind, even to this day. I saw classrooms in ruins and students without a place to learn.  The sight of it was enough to break my heart. Those children were being deprived of their right to education, and the opportunity to grow. They were caught in the crossfires of conflict, and the societal norms that restricted their access to education and basic services. But amidst the despair, I heard words of hope and aspirations from the children I met. Their passion for learning, their dreams for a brighter future, and the spark in their eyes spoke volumes of their ambition.


It is this that drives me to continue working every day, to give my all, and strive to provide the best support for these children, for a better future for this generation and the ones to come.


Our department at Save the Children is specialized in enhancing the quality of our services, developing proposals, and providing solutions to address the challenges that children are facing. We support schools and communities to repair and rebuild damaged schools and classrooms. We also provide educational materials to students and teachers and conduct capacity-building training for teachers. A key part of our work is to also engage closely with communities to raise awareness of the importance of education, especially for girls, to support both girls and boys to have access to safe, appropriate, and gender-sensitive education.


The effects of our labor are clear to see. Children who were previously unable to attend school, now have the opportunity to do so and complete their education. This, I believe, is our greatest accomplishment. Education empowers not just individuals but also families and communities, breaking the cycle of poverty and inequality. It is not only a basic human right but also essential for the progress and development of our nation.


As the conflict in Yemen persists, the need for education assistance remains immense. Over 2.7 million children are out of school and desperately need support to get back on track with education. It is imperative that action is taken now. I urge you to support those organizations that strive to enhance the opportunities for education among the youth of Yemen. Raise awareness of this dire situation within your own circles and actively advocate for long-term solutions, such as investing in the education of future generations, fostering peace, and offering a helping hand to families suffering in this crisis.


I was lucky to get the opportunity and the support of my family to peruse my education and achieve my goals. I want to be able to support Yemeni children to peruse their education and reach their goals and dreams as well.