“Farhad Azima: Initiatives to Promote Women’s Education in the Middle East”

Farhad Azima and his colleagues at the American University of Afghanistan are committed to diversity and advancement of women’s education.

Many in the West see the Middle East as a threat possibly because they are not aware of the deep cultural diversity within the region. Learning about one’s heritage provokes understanding, empathy and admiration. The asymmetrical warfare that is portrayed on the news is just a small part of the daily lived experience of the Middle Eastern people. Many of whom are pushing for modernization. They will, however, do it in their own unique way.

Case in point: the American University of Afghanistan. Clad in hijabs and some without, smiling Afghan women make their way to receive their diplomas at the graduation ceremony. These women have pursued their dreams, beyond the expectations of being a wife. Videos on the AUAF website show women having a freedom to choose the use of a headcover or not, a radical symbol of their empowerment. They strive for education and yearn to advance their country (and themselves) to compete in the global economy.

The school actively promotes equal education rights. The Women’s Center at AUAF is providing a leadership incubator and supporting women’s dreams. It serves as a hub for numerous entities around the world dedicated to women’s empowerment. This act is a radical statement in a country where people fear militant attacks on schools with co-ed system due to extremism.

The AUAF board is committed to diversity and advancement of women. Headed by Huda Farouki, with support of Farhad Azima, the university houses a variety of thought leaders, from leading women in international business world to former US Ambassadors, diplomats and French historians among others.

This organization exemplifies its commitment to diversity in its leadership cadre.

The United States is doing what it can to promote women’s education in the Middle East. Much of the work has gone towards grassroots efforts to help children and women. Despite what the news may portray, various people of the Middle East collectively form a generous, hospitable community with deep cultural history and diversity. Some countries are more conservative than others where certain cultural facets of capitalism and liberal democracy is recognizable to Western nations.

Farhad Azima
AUAF Graduation

There are a number of different mediums for change that people are engaged in. One that is popular is the US university systems. Mr. Azima and other members of the leadership team, often wield a considerable networking power, and are able to bring together other leaders of business, religious and civic life together to support their initiatives. These individuals often serve on several boards of universities, providing their time, energy and philanthropic efforts to these institutions.

Institutions including Georgetown University in Washington are working to create organizations that would create a bridge between students of two nations at the U.S.-Afghan Women’s Council. “Its mission is to convene committed and capable stakeholders; identify and mobilize public and private sector resources; and encourage dynamic and collaborative partnerships in support of Afghan women and children in the areas of education, health, economic empowerment, and leadership development.”

Other organizations include:

Aschiana Foundation “that invests in the education and well-being of vulnerable children in Afghanistan to give them hope for a brighter future and to contribute to lasting peace and security for the nation;”

Sunshine Lady Foundation “investing in organizations and programs dedicated to providing opportunities for the advancement of education, well being and new life choices for disadvantaged people with special empathy for the working poor and families in crisis;”

Lamia Afghan Foundation  “Providing education and economic development opportunities for long-term, self-sustainability for all Afghans; men, women, girls, and boys. Additionally, Providing humanitarian aid through online donations to purchase needed relief items locally in Afghanistan. The appropriate clothing and blanket items are available, and purchasing them locally will help support the Afghan economy;”

Bayat Foundation “that is is dedicated to the health, education and well-being of the people of Afghanistan, regardless of gender, age, ethnicity, marital status or religion;”

Ayenda Foundation provides scholarships to female students from provinces throughout Afghanistan to attend the American University of Afghanistan (AUAF). In 2013, Ayenda Foundation opened a Day Care Center at AUAF’s new International Center for Afghan Women Economic Development to support Afghan mothers who conduct business at the center.

Many of these organizations target the most marginalized people in Afghanistan, namely, women, children and the sick who do not have the most basic human needs for survival. Many of such needs emerge from service gaps on the part of the Afghan government. In the west, such needs are often fulfilled through government aid and nonprofit support. There is a more rigorous health care and foster care system.

It is important to raise public awareness about these issues and invite those with power to help join the initiative. Addressing equal education rights creates a positive political participation on the part of the average person. Responding to the need for high quality education and access to top tier faculty and literature creates learning opportunities that meet core competency needs in Afghanistan.

Farhad Azima and other AUAF Board members are working to make the country improve by building the foundation for positive social change.

Let’s support them in their mission. They cannot do that alone. There is a need for support of both the U.S. and the Afghan Governments in providing security and stability in order to provide the income and economic opportunities for the most marginalized people of Afghanistan.

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