Blog News

Join our Board of Directors!

Sahar is seeking new Board Members!

Is it you? Sahar Board Members will have the privilege of working collaboratively with our US and Afghan team, creating programs and building schools that truly change lives. The board provides strategic direction and oversight to our well-established non-profit, ensuring we are the best stewards possible for our supporters and the people of Afghanistan.

If you or someone you know:

  • Is passionate about access to education and is excited about creating opportunities for girls, women, and families in Afghanistan.
  • Communicates well and are able to build awareness of Sahar
  • Wants to be a part of a dynamic board and have the time and energy to spend 5-8 hours a month doing board work
  • Is interested in building partnerships for Sahar to expand its local and global network.

Check out our Sahar Board Opportunity Announcement for more information.

Interested in joining us? Sahar is seeking to bring on new board members to serve three-year terms beginning September 2019. Please email with any questions and to receive the short online application. Interested candidates must complete an application by June 10, 2019, and will be interviewed by our recruiting team.

Blog News

Check out the Asia Foundation’s 2018 Survey of the Afghan People

The Asia Foundation’s Afghanistan in 2018: A Survey of the Afghan People is out! With the largest sampling of the Afghan population to date, this survey helps recenter and understand what is most important to Afghan citizens in their everyday lives.

Since the fall of the Taliban in 2001, Afghanistan has made significant progress in women’s rights and education. The findings of The Survey reflect that progress in the opinions of Afghan citizens. However, The Survey also speaks to how far the country has to go to ensure women’s equality and access to education: most people surveyed do not support women working outside of the home, equal opportunity for girls and women in education, or the right for a women to decide who to vote for for herself.

And yet, according to this survey, people’s opinions are changing. Baad and badaal practices (traditional practices connected to forced and early marriage) are at their lowest approval rating ever. More women report contributing to their household income than in previous years. And despite serious threats of violence, 38% of females voted in the most recent presidential election.

Afghanistan may have a long way to go to achieve gender equality generally and in education, but progress has been made and progress will continue. Sahar’s programs, such as Early Marriage Prevention, digital literacy, and female teacher training, are perfect examples of this progress. The girls we serve crave these programs and as we grow in response, the community’s acceptance of our programs and girls’ empowerment grows as well.

We are proud to do this work. Thank you for your support in educating the future women of Afghanistan!

Blog News

Shout out to Zohra Orchestra: the Afghan all female youth orchestra performing internationally!

Shout out to the first female Afghan orchestra currently touring Europe! The Zohra orchestra, comprised of young women aged 12-22 from the Afghan National Institute of Music (ANIM), performed at the British Museum on Friday, March 15.

Zohra is led by 22 year old conductor Negin Khpalwak
Photo Credit: ANIM

This inspirational group of young women is a clear example of the power that music and education has in transforming and empowering the lives of girls. ANIM is an institute that primarily works with underserved youth; 70% of the students come from disadvantaged backgrounds. Empowering youth through music, especially in Afghanistan, where during the Taliban rule education for girls was strictly and violently prohibited, is a courageous and inspiring avenue for social change. We congratulate these girls for their success and for showing the world the potential and power of Afghan girls!

As the director of Zohra, Dr Ahmad Sarmast, states, “Zohra creates a lovely sound but also it’s a symbol of the freedom of Afghan women. This is the message we take around the world.” We at Sahar acknowledge and support the amazing impact that ANIM makes for girls.

Blog News

Sahar highlighted in Global Washington’s Issue Briefing: What Will it Take to End Child Marriage?

Check out Sahar’s mention in Global Washington’s March Newsletter! In honor of International Women’s Day, Global Washington’s March issue brief features the current state of early marriage throughout the world and the negative outcomes– especially on the child brides– of the practice. The brief states:

“Child marriage is a violation of international human rights law. Yet around the world, about 650 million of the women and girls alive today were married before their 18th birthday, according to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). By 2030, it’s estimated that more than 150 million girls will become child brides.”

In Afghanistan, 57% of girls are married before the legal age of 16. Our Early Marriage Prevention Program inspires girls to continue their education and empowers them to become leaders in their community. It also equips them to advocate for themselves by increasing their knowledge of potential educational opportunities and an understanding of their legal rights. Each year, Sahar reaches 500 girls directly, and more than 2,000 community members. Click here for more information on our program!

We are honored to be featured for our work in our Early Marriage Prevention Program and appreciate Global Washington for highlighting this important worldwide issue!

Blog News

Farewell Qxhna and Welcome Sophie!

Sahar is sorry to say goodbye to Qxhna Titcomb, Operations and Campaign Manager for Sahar since 2017. Qxhna has been an integral part of the Sahar team these past two years and we are so thankful for her amazing support and dedication to Sahar’s work providing education and opportunity to girls in Afghanistan. As she moves forward we thank her for all of her hard work and wish her luck in her future endeavors!

On the same note, we are happy to introduce Sophie Allen, our new addition to the Sahar team in the Operations and Campaign Manager role. In her studies Sophie focused on women’s rights globally and had the opportunity to intern in Cape Town, South Africa at a domestic violence organization. Through her studies and personal experience, Sophie became passionate about feminism globally and her local community. She is particularly committed to the importance of education for girls and women and the opportunities education brings to women and their communities. She is excited to be part of the Sahar team and contribute to the positive impact Sahar has on girls and communities in Afghanistan. 

Blog News

Successful Event: “Overcoming the Trauma of War and Displacement” with Medical Teams International

Sahar was invited by Medical Teams International to join a panel about the topic of mental health and trauma as it relates to women in war and refugee crises. This event was connected to the Medical Teams International series “Healthy Women, Healthy World,” a program designed to connect like-minded people in Seattle and Portland to the health challenges that women face worldwide.

Our Executive Director Ginna Brelsford and Afghan Fellow Shogofa Amini spoke on the context of Afghanistan, the structure of Sahar’s programs, the creation of our Early Marriage Prevention Program, the addition of a module on mental health in our curriculum specifically, and the benefits of opening conversation on the topic of mental health and trauma in Afghanistan. Hear from our students below:

Kelly Kirk, a Program Support Officer for Medical Teams International Field Operations also shared the context of trauma for Syrian refugees in Lebanon. Women refugees from war zones often face a range of stress factors that are experienced by no other population. The audience learned that there are remarkable similarities between the impact of war on Syrian women in Lebanon and the context of daily life for Afghan women. The synergy between the work of both organizations made for a engaging program.

Thank you Medical Teams International for hosting! We appreciate all of the fantastic questions from the audience and the opportunity to talk about this important issue.

Blog News

“Overcoming the Trauma of War and Displacement” Event on Tuesday, January 22nd!

Gather with friends and learn how you can make a difference.

Tuesday, January 22, 6:30pm – 8:00pm
Bellevue Towers, 500 106th Ave NE
Bellevue, Washington 98004
Admission: Free
Light Refreshments Provided

Join us for a thought-provoking panel, followed by Q&A. With speakers:
– Courtney Brandt: Medical Teams International, Refugee Health Programs – Lebanon and Bangladesh
– Ginna Brelsford & Shogofa Amini: Sahar – Education for Afghan Girls
Refugee Women’s Alliance (ReWA)

Women refugees from war zones have often faced a range of stress factors that are experienced by no other population. In their home country traumatic experiences may have included bombs, imprisonment, torture, and exile. The flight from their home is often fraught with danger and once in the country of exile, life still has its challenges.

Staff will assist with elevator between Lot #3 and Bellevue Towers on 106th.
Parking is FREE under the Westin Hotel and at Bellevue Square.
Pay-to-park is nearby.

More information here. Questions? Please email:

Blog News

Boarding School Q&A with project architects and Afghanistan-based builder

We at Sahar get many questions about the projects we work on, and the boarding school has really piqued the curiosity of our community. We went right to the source – our amazing architects and Afghanistan-based builder – to address some of the most common questions.

The pro bono architects on the boarding school include Sahar board member Dave Miller and Margaret Sprug, both of Miller Hull Partnership in Seattle, Washington. Dave is the founding partner of Miller Hull and a professor of Architecture at the University of Washington School of Built Environment. Margaret is a principal at Miller Hull. Both work together with our Afghanistan-based team and our Seattle-based Afghan Fellow to address architecture and culturally relevant approaches to the boarding school.

Jason Simmons, our Afghanistan-based builder, has lived in Afghanistan since the Taliban and spearheaded our award winning Gawhar Khatoon Girls School. He will be at the helm to shepherd the boarding school through to completion. We’ve asked this stellar team to answer the most frequently asked questions about the boarding school.


Q: Based on your experience, what would be the cost of building an equivalent school in the United States?

Dave: You could use $600 per square foot as a good ballpark cost. An average size for a high school is probably 78,000 sq feet without a gym. To build the equivalent of a school in the United States would cost a minimum of $45 million. We can bring the same quality of school in Afghanistan for under $2 million. It’s amazing.


Q: Afghanistan is still a war zone. What’s an example of your design incorporating concerns of parents for the girl’s safety?

Jason: We use blast film for the glass in the school and build strong boundary walls as part of the school security. We provide cafeteria spaces where students can get food and utilize on-site facilities versus going out. And we provide expanded opportunities in safe spaces such as libraries, computer centers and meeting spaces within our facilities so girls do not need to go leave the building for private courses.

Dave: Being able to exactly get the windows in the right place, so that we get the ventilation and the light, but we don’t get views from the street of the city, is certainly a big challenge that we work with our Afghan colleagues on to ensure cultural competence.


Q: Are you concerned that parents won’t send their girls to a boarding school?

Jason: In any society you are going to find those with different ideas and in that sense, there are challenges, but it is more likely we will have to turn people away. Many parents are looking for an opportunity like this for their daughters.


Q: How are you using architecture to design livable spaces for Afghan girls?  

Margaret: We work with Sahar’s Afghan Fellows who advise us about Afghan culture. We’ve learned that social spaces are as important as academic spaces and as a result we’ve designed to that need: we sensitively added congregating spaces that foster places for interacting and allowing for girls to play, study, converse and learn from one another. The boarding school is located next to a famous day school for girls and also provides wonderful ways for rural girls and urban girls to mingle in well designed, safe spaces.

Dave: What we’re trying to achieve with the architecture is basic elements of providing for human comfort. Things like good daylight, which has benefits to mental health and learning; good air quality and air flow, so that the rooms feel like a healthy environment and are comfortable for learning.

Jason: Using architecture to design both practical and beautiful spaces that addresses climate and environmental issues increases the usability of structures. We consider everything: from the design of the bathroom, to the outdoor gardens and seating spaces, the beautiful, colorful windows and classrooms that are inspired by local religious buildings and the passive solar design that helps to both heat and cool the buildings. Taken together, these details create a space for girls to study in a beautiful environment, overcoming many of the barriers most Afghan students face in daily life.


Q: In what ways do you work with the physical environment, instead of against it?

Dave: We describe the building almost as a ship, with moving parts and design elements that work in harmony with the extreme weather instead of fighting against it. We call it ‘sailing the building.’ The UW architecture students use largely non-mechanical and power-independent techniques. For instance, By using wind chimneys and operating windows, the building can harness the breeze as a cooling mechanism.

Jason: We use green design ideas: developing septic systems that filter through a series of concrete chambers leading to water that can be used for water gardens, greenery and trees onsite, while also providing a much cleaner bathroom facility. We also create green spaces and use ground covering that minimizes dust and uses very little water.

Margaret: The building’s use of local influences including the design of the screens also honors customs and traditions of traditional design.


Q: How important is it for a design to be replicable?

Dave: From an architectural point of view, the goal is making sure that it is replicable. The design elements are modular so that you can adjust size and adaptability for different sites. Creating a flexible, adaptable, replicable design—that’s how we’re going to carry this forward.

Jason: It is important for the design to be replicable so that it can be recreated for other schools in the country. This provides the Ministry of Education a blueprint for future projects across the country.


Q: How does building a boarding school positively impact the local economy?

Jason: This project will provide job opportunities to people from the area. We train craftsman to elevate their skills because of the unique designs inherent in the quality of the building enabling workers to secure better future employment.  It also generates revenue locally because we source as many building materials as possible locally.


Q: Why is Sahar building a public school?

Jason: We believe it is very important to work with the local government. It allows us to work strategically and help to bolster their country-wide goals versus some separate agenda. Also public schools are really the only way to reach and help the most vulnerable students.

Blog News

#GivingTuesday 2018 Success!

#GivingTuesday is a global day of giving that connects diverse groups of individuals, communities, and organizations around the world for one common purpose: to celebrate and encourage giving. In 2018, #GivingTuesday landed on November 27th, 2018.  It’s an opportunity to harness the generosity of people around the world to bring about real change in your community. It inspires people to take collective action to give back in better, smarter ways to the charities and causes they believe in, and help create a better world. #GivingTuesday demonstrates how every act of generosity counts, and that they mean even more when we give together.

With a Global Giving match, both via the Safer World Fund as well as the #GivingTuesday fund, we raised over $4,000 for #GivingTuesday!

These funds will enable educational opportunities for Afghan girls in the form of digital literacy courses, teacher training classes, and an early marriage prevention program.

Thank you for your generosity!

Blog News

Sahar Board Member Dr. Shinkai Hakimi spotlight in Monterey County Weekly!

Get to know one of our board members, Dr. Shinkai Hakimi, in this Face-to-Face series via Monterey County Weekly!

Shinkai shares her story as an Afghan American and what it’s like to be a refugee in today’s political climate, in addition to her passion for medicine to help people.

Thanks for all your inspiring work, Shinkai!