Afghan women study with hope
People doing something positive that creates real change:
Adela Raz learned English in secret schoolrooms in her native Kabul during the five-year rule of the Taliban, which forbade education for women in Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001.
She and other teenage girls risked their lives daily by leaving their homes defiantly, carrying books under all-concealing burqas.
Today, Raz, 27, has a bachelor’s degree from Simmons College, thanks to the Initiative to Educate Afghan Women. She later earned a master’s degree from the Fletcher School of International Affairs at Tufts University.
The IEAW, a nonprofit organization founded by Paula Nirschel in Bristol nine years ago, focuses on providing an undergraduate education in the United States for Afghan women who dream of making a difference in their country.
So far the Initiative has brought 76 students to the United States, despite the marginal status of women in Afghan society, a status that has become increasingly precarious in the last few years.
The Afghan women here, nurtured by family and religion through a bittersweet youth, express an undiminished capacity to dream of a peaceful and productive Afghanistan.
Haseena Niazi, the future accountant, says the newcomers should select their academic majors early — in their freshman year if possible — according to the economic, social and political needs of their country.
Yagana, who wants to be a lawyer, plans a double major in pre-law and women’s studies.
She plans to get her law degree and return to her country to practice law. As a practicing lawyer, her education will have made a difference in Afghanistan, she said, “Even if they kill me.”