On September 14th, 2023, Sahar Program Manager, Shogofa Amini shared her story and the story of Afghanistan with the Juneau World Affairs Council.
Shogofa spent 5 years of her childhood learning in a secret school organized and taught by her mother, a former principal. She understood from a very young age the power of education. Although there were great risks from the Taliban for learning and teaching, her parents understood those risks must be taken for the future of their children.
Imagine sending your daughters to learn English knowing they may be beaten or killed if discovered. It is a harsh reality that many Americans cannot fathom. However, it is once again the daily experience of the Afghan people.
Shogofa shared how a love and respect for education led her to the United States, completing a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree and how she came to work with Sahar. It was her dream to return to Afghanistan and help women and girls achieve their dreams, however, the resurgence of the Taliban has made that impossible at this time. That blockade has not stopped Shogofa, who has helped Sahar invest in secret education courses since August 2021.
Sahar Education continues to provide hope for Afghan girls under the repressive regime of the Taliban with the constant support of Shogofa. Her dedication to the programs is apparent as she shares the experiences of the students she personally interviews.
Watch Shogofa’s presentation at the Juneau World Affairs Council.
Do you want to help young girls with a passion for learning? Donate today to Sahar Education via GlobalGiving and our programs receive 50% more for every $1000!
You can change the life of an Afghan girl and her community by supporting Stealth Sisters and Underground TechSheroes.
Donate today through GlobalGiving and your contribution will go 50% further with matching from the Safer World Fund through January 1st, 2024 (or until matching funds last).
Help Sahar Education reach the goal of $10,000 through this program, sponsoring 6 girls for the 6-month Stealth Sisters course!
Join Sahar on October 25th to celebrate the resilience of Afghan women while supporting our programs!
A Night In Afghanistan will feature Afghan food, music, and traditional clothing. Join us to learn about the rich culture of Afghanistan before the Taliban and the current conditions under which brave students continue to fight for their right to education.
Sahar has been providing educational opportunities in Afghanistan for over 20 years. Although many organizations stopped serving women once the Taliban took over, Sahar shifted to a secret school model that continues to educate women and girls against Taliban restrictions.
Join us at Structure Cellars on October 25th to hear from Program Manager, Shogofa Amini, and Executive Director, Meetra Alokozay. Also hear from the former Afghan Youth Representative to the United Nations, Shkula Zadran, about the current situation in Afghanistan and why educating women is so vital to the recovery of the country and its people.
Virtual registration is also available for those who would like to join us from outside Seattle.
September is a time for Back to School preparations in the United States. Many parents are buying clothes and supplies for their children and looking forward to those first-day photos. However, for girls above grade 6 in Afghanistan, September is just another month with no hope in sight for a reprieve from the oppressive policies of the Taliban.
Girls impacted by the education ban report feeling hopeless and unsure about their futures. Many families already have turned to early marriage in a society where the opportunities for women are dwindling quickly.
Your continued support of Sahar Education is a lifeline for the girls we serve. Our commitment to bringing hope through education to Afghan girls and their communities has not wavered. We continue to search for new partners and opportunities to help more girls.
Please consider supporting the growth of our programs and ongoing efforts to educate Afghan girls through a monthly donation or a one-time contribution. Refer to our events page for opportunities to stretch your donation even further through matching campaigns!
Safer World Fund Matching Campaign with Global Giving
September 11th through January 1st, 2024
Donate to Sahar Education in September through the Safer World Campaign and your contribution will go 50% further! Donations up to $1000 per individual will be matched through January 1st, 2024.
To participate in this campaign, bookmark one of the two listed projects today!
Over $40,000 in matching funds are available for projects included in the Safer World Fund this year! Sahar is one of 9 organizations selected to fundraise during this campaign.
September Little By Little Campaign with Global Giving
September 18th through 22nd, 2023
This campaign focuses on how small contributions can make an enormous difference in the lives of people! Each day, Sahar programs change the lives of Afghan girls with your support. On September 18th, donations up to $50 per donor will receive 50% matching! There is no cap on matching funds over the 5 days of this campaign!
Want to help Sahar make an impact on Afghan girls? Share our Global Giving page with your friends, families, and colleagues on social media!
A Night in Afghanistan
Join Sahar Education on October 25th at 6:00 pm for A Night in Afghanistan, a benefit. Enjoy Afghan culture, food, and music, and learn about the continued resistance of Afghan girls!
Hear from Executive Director, Meetra Alokozay, Program Manager, Shogofa Amini, and a special guest about how Afghan girls are resisting the strict edict of the Taliban. Experience Afghan culture without the oppressive lens of the Taliban.
100% of the $100 min donation during the event supports life-changing programs for Afghan women. Donations over $250 receive 100% matching from a generous sponsor.
August marked the 5th month of the current Stealth Sisters cohort! The girls have advanced in all areas including English, computers, and women’s empowerment.
Last month, Program Manager Shogofa Amini began interviewing students in this program to get their perspectives on classes. Currently, we are working on producing a documentary in partnership with the on-the-ground program leaders to share more about the brave girls in these courses.
In August, girls in the Stealth Sisters program learned about domestic violence and depression. These hot-button issues led to many debates and discussions which further improved the English and critical thinking skills of the students. Additionally, girls learned about menstrual hygiene and developed strategies for improving mental health.
One of the important impacts of this program is that these topics help girls cope with the situations they face at home and prepare them to have difficult conversations with their friends and families, advocating for themselves and each other against violence, early marriage, and the isolating effects of depression.
GET TO KNOW AFGHANISTAN
Afghan women are no strangers to adversity. Recently, women’s rights activist Mahbouba Seraj confronted the Taliban in a documentary. In a report from Aljazeera, Seraj argued with Taliban representatives on the importance of opening girls’ schools.
“For God’s sake, please open the girls’ schools,” she says. “It is not possible to have a generation that doesn’t go to school.”
However, the answer of the Taliban while not budging on girls’ education, gives hope to Sahar.
The Taliban representative’s response is that “if schoolgirls go against the government” then that could “destabilize the Afghan society.”
“If we don’t agree with the solution that the scholars advise for us, and if they think we are going in the wrong direction, it could cause division and bring down the government.”
Meanwhile, girls are doing just that. Taking back their futures, becoming empowered and perhaps, someday soon, these girls will rise up against the oppression of the Taliban.
Support our programs to help more girls and women defy the Taliban!
Join Sahar Education in celebrating the resilience of Afghan women! Enjoy an evening of Afghan music, hors d’oeuvres, wine, and henna. Speakers Meetra Alokozay, Shogofa Amini, and a special guest (TBA) will share the experience of Afghan women living under the Taliban and how Sahar programs provide hope when all seems bleak!
100% of donations made during the event will support life-changing programs for Afghan women and girls—contributions of $250 and above are eligible for 100% matching from a generous benefactor.
Register today to ensure your ticket to this intimate and immersive experience! Not sure you can attend in person? Virtual tickets are also available!
Education has long been a cornerstone of empowerment for women around the world. Under the Taliban’s previous rule, girls were largely barred from attending schools, denying them opportunities to learn and grow. In recent years, there have been promises of change, with the Taliban suggesting that girls’ education would be allowed within the boundaries of Islamic principles.
However, the implementation has been far from uniform. Throughout the country, girls above grade 6 are banned from attending school. Reports suggest that while some regions have seen a limited return of younger girls to classrooms, many others still struggle with barriers. The lack of qualified female teachers, limited school infrastructure, and lingering concerns about the Taliban’s commitment to long-term educational empowerment all contribute to the uncertain educational landscape for Afghan girls.
Since retaking the country, the Taliban has barred girls over the age of 12 from formal education, made it virtually impossible for them to work in most professions, and restricted their movements in public unless chaperoned by an adult male relative.
The most recent crackdown was a ban on beauty salons, which the clerics ordered to close countrywide last month, eliminating one of the last means Afghan women had of interacting and earning income.
Despite two years of consistent demands from the U.S., the United Nations, and many other countries, the Taliban has not made any concessions to improve human rights in Afghanistan, despite the country continuing to receive billions of dollars in aid annually.’
CBS Report August 1st, 2023
It is the experience of Sahar that the women of Afghanistan are driven to better themselves and their country, despite barriers. The girls in our programs are breaking strict edicts against education and even have to conceal their true purpose for attending sessions. There are risks to learning in Afghanistan, but for the girls in our programs, the possibility of a brighter future is worth the danger.
Social Fabric and Women’s Roles
The last two years have seen shifts in social dynamics, affecting women’s roles and freedoms. The Taliban has indicated that women can work, but closing many places of business for women, restricting travel without male accompaniment and other actions make working unrealistic for most women. Many women have been forced out of jobs due to restrictions, and in some cases, they have been limited to roles within the confines of their homes.
The social fabric that once included women as active contributors to various sectors has been strained. Afghan women who were once teachers, doctors, engineers, and entrepreneurs find themselves unable to serve their communities and families. Bans on women working for NGOs have led to many organizations leaving the region and those who stayed report they are 75% less effective without women.
Mental Health: Silent Struggles
Amid the changes and uncertainties, the mental well-being of Afghan women and girls has taken a toll. The repressive environment under previous Taliban rule has left psychological scars on many, and the current situation exacerbates those wounds. Many girls and women report feelings of hopelessness under the current regime. Sahar hears directly from those most affected, who have been banned from education and face uncertain futures. Our programs work to improve stigma about mental health and give these girls the one thing they need most, hope.
For many women throughout the country, the limited avenues for seeking mental health support only compound these issues. The stigma surrounding mental health and a lack of accessible resources prevent many from seeking help, leaving their struggles unaddressed and often invisible.
Global Solidarity and Hope
While the situation for Afghan women and girls appears challenging, there remains a glimmer of hope. The international community, humanitarian organizations, and local activists continue to advocate for the rights and well-being of Afghan women. Efforts to provide education, support mental health, and empower women economically are ongoing, though they face considerable obstacles.
Despite the continued threat of violence for dissent, 60 women protested the ban on beauty salons on July 26th. Per the AP,
Dozens of Afghan women protested a beauty salon ban on Wednesday after the Taliban ordered their closure nationwide. Security forces used firehoses, stun guns, and shot their guns into the air to break up the protest.
“We are here for justice,” said one protester who identified herself as Farzana. “We want work, food, and freedom.”’
AP NEWS, Afghan Women Protesting Beauty Salon Ban
One thing that remains true amid continued pressure from the Taliban, women and girls are not giving up. Those girls enrolled in Sahar’s programs use the opportunity to change their futures. Even more girls and women are suffering throughout Afghanistan and in need of a ray of hope.
Each day, Sahar programs serve hundreds of girls throughout the country, but there are millions unable to access education, living shrouded by hopelessness. As we work to expand our underground programs, we must acknowledge that though we cannot help every girl, the impact we have on the lives of those in our programs is immense.
As we reflect on the challenges facing Afghan women, it is essential to stand in solidarity, amplify their voices, and work collectively to ensure that their rights and aspirations are recognized and upheld on both national and international stages.
Currently, 19.4 million women and girls (49.5% of Afghanistan’s population) in Afghanistan are banned from pursuing education, working outside, traveling, and attending public places. The fall of the government in Afghanistan in August 2021 shifted the trajectory for millions of girls in Afghanistan.
When the Taliban took over the government in Afghanistan in 1996, they immediately targeted women’s rights by banning universities for women, forcing them to quit their jobs, restricting access to healthcare for women, setting a brutal dress code, and limiting their ability to move freely in the city. These rules not only resulted in a generation of illiterate women in Afghanistan, but also an increase in forced marriages, child marriages, and domestic violence. In fact, many families sent their daughters to countries like Pakistan and Iran to protect them.
After the Taliban were replaced with a US-backed government in 2001, Afghan women made incredible advancements in different areas including a 27% share in parliament and being part of the Afghan military and police. Despite the advancements, Afghan women still lagged behind Afghan men as more work was needed to attain gender equality. With the Taliban returning to power in 2021, Afghan women went two decades back in the span of one day.
Making progress is difficult for a country when it is deprived of the contribution of half of its society. When girls are educated, they are less likely to be exploited, abused, face discrimination, go through child marriages, and die in childbirth. Education empowers girls to make their own decisions, raise better-nourished children, contribute to the economy, invest in their community, be active politically, and change the world.
As a nonprofit organization, Sahar Education believes in the power of education for girls and works to empower Afghan women through programs such as Stealth Sisters- English, IT, Women’s Empowerment, Underground TechSheroes- IT & Coding, and Threads of Hope- sewing. These not only help girls and women learn essential skills but prepare them for life-changing opportunities, becoming financially independent individuals and sources of change in their communities.
Please join Sahar in supporting education for all Afghan women and girls as a means of improving the trajectory of the country and the future of each girl. You can get involved by volunteering, donating, or sharing our mission with your friends.
During the month of June, SAHAR was able to successfully continue its activities to empower and educate women in Afghanistan. Students were able to attend IT, coding, and English classes. Furthermore, they were also able to learn more about women’s empowerment through classes and various sessions.
Millions of Afghan girls have been denied the right to education and future employment under the strict rules of the Taliban who took over Afghanistan, once again, in August of 2021.
Sadaf was one of those girls, and her entire future was shattered when she heard that she could not finish school or pursue her planned career. She thought the situation was helpless until she discovered an amazing opportunity to join a new program through Sahar Education.
Sadaf joined the first cohort of the Stealth Sisters program which partnered with a local school to provide a 3 part course to girls who were not allowed to enroll in school, due to the new rules. Sadaf learned English, IT computer skills and studied women’s empowerment.
These lessons were of great value to her development and allowed her to see herself and the world in a new light. She learned about her rights, mental health, and supporting fellow women. This program was invaluable to Sadaf.
After graduation, Sadaf’s confidence was higher than ever before and she knew she needed to use her skills to help her community and herself. She started her own home-based school which educates girls within her community. She also began teaching online Quran classes which led to her financial independence.
For women and girls all over Afghanistan, Sadaf’s story is one of immense pride and inspiration. But, the opportunities for other girls, like Sadaf, are few and far between.
With your help, Sahar Education continues to bring innovative courses to Afghan girls across the country. We currently fund and support 3 ongoing programs which help women and girls at different stages of their educational journey.
Threads of Hope helps girls and women achieve literacy while learning to sew. Underground TechSheroes allows young women to learn IT and coding skills they can turn into home-based careers. And, Stealth Sisters helps girls and young women learn English, and computer skills and embrace the power of womanhood for successful futures.
None of this can be successful without the support of our community. Every comment, like, share, and donation is immensely powerful, helping Sahar Education reach new friends and supporters. We are humbled each day by the courage and resilience of the girls in our programs and hope the opportunity to hear more about Sadaf has brought some of that magic to you.
Sahar Education invites you to a virtual info session to learn how we are fighting back against gender apartheid in Afghanistan!
Join us, on July 10th, 2023 at 6 pm PST on Zoom! This info session is open to donors, board members, and anyone interested in Sahar’s mission!
Women and girls are being targeted by segregating policies in Afghanistan which will push the country back even further in progress. Only 23% of Afghan women can read and write at a basic level, the Taliban wants that number at 0! Sahar is not giving up until every woman and girl in Afghanistan can read, write and pursue her own dreams.
We know it’s a long road, and we need YOUR help to get there! Please join us on July 10th to learn what programs we are devoted to in 2023 to improve the lives of Afghan women and how your support can help further our efforts.
Hear from a Sahar program graduate about how the Stealth Sisters curriculum changed her life!
Learn about current and future programs from Program Manager, Shogofa Amini. Find out the long-term vision of Sahar from Executive Director, Meetra Alokozay.
Learn about the impact Sahar is having on hundreds of Afghan girls through programs that teach them to read, write, speak English, use computers, sew, and code!
Sahar is participating in July Bonus Day on July 12th! This is an exciting opportunity for Sahar to raise funds for ongoing projects with a match for all unique donations between $100 and $1,000! Please share our mission with your friends and family ahead of the July Bonus Day Campaign!
$400,000 available in Matching Funds for participating projects!
30% match on donations from $100 – $499 (while funds remain)
40% match on donations from $500 – $749 (while funds remain)
50% match on donations from $750 – $1,000 (while funds remain)
Donations up to $1,000 per unique donor per organization will be matched!
Are you taking part in a local event you think Sahar should join? Please email us about the event![email protected]
June was a great month for the girls enrolled in our current programs. We are excited to share their progress with you.
In June, Sadaf, an alumna of the Stealth Sisters program, was invited as a host speaker. She shared her life-changing experience with the program and how it helped her become a more confident individual. Sadaf’s story not only inspired the current students but also those of us at Sahar. We are sharing more about her story through the next 2 weeks and will have a special event on July 12th.
One of the current students had this to say about the Stealth Sisters program, “Before this course, I felt weak when I was at home. I asked myself why we cannot go to school and study. Since this course started, especially the women’s empowerment program, the feeling of being weak has been removed from me, and my attitude has strengthened. I feel that I am strong. Now I know about my rights. Also, I learned computer programs that are useful for me. Now I can do my homework on the computer.”
In June, the Stealth Sisters learned about Bacha Posh. Students discussed how some girls in some parts of Afghanistan are forced to cover themselves as boys until puberty. The students discussed and wrote about the topic enthusiastically, learning about women’s rights in the meantime.
At the end of the month, exams and quizzes were taken from the students, and feedback was given. During the past three months, students have been learning about women’s rights and how they can take the lead in improving them in Afghan society. They have responded positively to the programs and have expressed their happiness about having this platform through Sahar.
GET TO KNOW AFGHANISTAN
There are many ways that women’s rights are being infringed upon in Afghanistan under Taliban rule. Only this week the Taliban has decided to close all women’s salons, another blow to women following rulings about clothing, education, and employment- to name a few. Sahar Education is proud to fight back against oppression and to support others in their bid for equality.
One of the most disturbing ways the Taliban has impacted life in Afghanistan is to all but wipe out traditional clothing and expressions of the beauty and joy that Afghan women have in their culture. In 2021, Vogue shared a story about one Afghan refugee standing up against this loss of cultural heritage via Instagram.
“Afghan women on social media around the world began to speak out against Taliban rule and post images of themselves in their traditional ethnic clothing with the hashtag #donttouchmyclothes” and Lema Afzal embraced the community, sharing stunning photos of her Afghan cultural outfits.
Now, two years later, Afghanistan is a blur of women in long black robes and hijabs. The vibrant and beautiful dresses of each tribe are dying within the country. It is up to those of us with the freedom to express ourselves to keep it alive.
“While Afzal is currently in Belgium, she nevertheless hopes that the posts of her in vibrant, traditional Afghan clothing will educate the world about her country’s rich history.”