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Sahar’s Response to the Current Crisis in Afghanistan

The news from Afghanistan is devastating. All of Afghanistan is now out of the control of the government and in the hands of the Taliban, including Kabul. President Ghani has fled to Tajikistan with his advisors. Our Afghan staff is safe, but their situation remains extremely difficult due to their affiliation with Sahar and our work. We are taking every measure we can to protect and support them and their families. 

It is hard not to feel grief as the Taliban returns, but we must remain in solidarity with the people of Afghanistan, especially the girls and women. They remain the future of the country. We are reminded of the secret schools that mothers across Afghanistan ran during the Taliban.  Perhaps we have educated the next generation of these teachers. 

Over 250,000 girls attended the schools we helped to support. Every day we showed our belief in them and their futures. Even in difficult times, the power that comes from educating a girl is not erased. They will have daughters and sons who will hear their lessons and learn from their experiences. 

Right now, the voices of many Afghan women are muted for security and safety. They will emerge again. Now, it is our voices that need to be heard supporting all Afghans, especially the women and girls in Afghanistan. We urge you to speak up for their protection and show your solidarity.

Websites of NGOs around the globe are being scrubbed and images and names have been taken to protect staff and girls. They cannot be visible so we must be. Post your messages in support of Afghanistan with the #IStandWithAfghanGirls and #IstandwithAfghans. Contact your representatives and demand that the U.S. expand its visa programs to allow NGO workers and supporters to apply for visas while they are trapped in Afghanistan. Cite Canada as an example of a country that is providing adequate support to Afghan refugees. 

Sahar believes in the future of Afghanistan and its people and we must support them now in every way possible. We have taken down our social media accounts to protect the women and girls we have served. Please visit our website to learn how you can help. We will update our landing page with organizations and resources aiding Afghanistan. Thank you for standing with us in support of Afghanistan and girls education.

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Our response to recent security developments in Afghanistan

Together in 2001, we began our journey to provide access to education for Afghan girls and boys. Since then, with your generous support, we have witnessed incredible strides in girls’ lives through education. The literacy rate for Afghan youth aged 15–24 has substantially increased and now stands at 65% (UNESCO, 2020). In Afghanistan, Sahar has built a trusted relationship with the Ministries of Education and Economy, who view us as a vital partner supporting their critical educational systems. 

Considering the recent increase in security concerns across Afghanistan, we have made the difficult decision to pause program operations and the construction of our boarding school until September 12, 2021. We will continue to employ and support our Afghan staff during this time. The safety of our staff is our priority. It is our hope that we will be able to resume operations in the fall. 

Sahar’s Board of Directors and staff remain committed to continuing to support girls in Afghanistan. Sahar’s decision to stay in Afghanistan is a testament to our trust and ongoing partnership with our team on the ground and our shared commitment to girls’ education.

As members of our community, donors, and champions of girls’ education, we ask you to join us and continue your commitment to the education of Afghan girls during these challenging times.  

Sincerely, 

Malahat, Executive Director 

Catherine Gelband, Board President 

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Fall Internship Opportunity

Are you a college student interested in learning more about the field of sustainable international development and girls’ empowerment?

Sahar is hiring a Communications and Operations intern for Fall 2021.

This year, Sahar celebrates its 20th anniversary of promoting girls’ education in Afghanistan. This 20 year mark is exciting for the Sahar team in many ways. It is also a crossroads for the organization as it looks forward to continuing its growth. Within this context, the Communications Intern will support the organization’s external communications. Given the nature of Sahar, the Communications Intern will work closely with the entire Sahar Team supporting them with a number of communications-related work.

The Communications Interns reports directly to the Operations & Campaign Manager. This is a remote position.

All applicants are requested to send their completed application to the Operations & Campaign Manager at sophia@sahareducation.org by July 9, 2021.

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Welcome to our new Executive Director!

Sahar is thrilled to introduce our new Executive Director, Malahat. Born and raised in Afghanistan, Malahat is drawn to mission oriented and community focused organizations like Sahar. She brings experience in the international development and business sectors working at both private and non-profit organizations. Her previous work includes efforts to advance educational opportunities for girls, women’s rights and empowerment, disability health, and management and acquisition of development projects. Malahat first worked with Sahar as a fellow in 2016. 

Malahat holds a dual masters degree in Sustainable International Development, and Global Health Policy and Management from the Heller School for Social Policy and Management at Brandeis University. Prior to joining Sahar as an Executive Director, Malahat worked as a business development manager with Moore Afghanistan, a consulting company based in Kabul.

As Executive Director, Malahat is eager to continue her work to empower and inspire girls by removing barriers to accessing education. Sahar is excited to embark on this new chapter as we continue to provide educational opportunities for our students, guided by Malahat’s vision for the future of young Afghan women and girls. 

We would like to take this opportunity to express enormous gratitude to Ginna Brelsford. Over her ten years as Sahar’s Executive Director, she expanded the organization, implemented our Afghan fellows program along with our other flagship programs, and led the construction of the beautiful Gowhar Khatoon School. Without her leadership, strategic vision, passion for our mission, and persistence, Sahar would not be where we are today. Please join me in welcoming Malahat to Sahar. We look forward to your continued support of Sahar and the women and girls we serve. 

Sincerely,

Catherine Gelband, Board President

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Spring Appeal 2021

War and trauma have impacted both genders in profound ways. Working with young men brings change to our communities. Education of the younger generation is the single most important work Sahar can do. Youth are the future and their generation will determine where our country goes in the face of the US and NATO troop withdrawal. Our programs are not Western ideas, they are organic and come from within Afghanistan. Young people are able to learn, to grow and change. All of this reduces violence.

Shogofa Amini

As we reflect on the past year of turbulence, loss, and protest, we are moved by the importance of Sahar’s mission to educate Afghan girls and to partner with young men in the communities where we work. We continue to recognize that by educating the next generation of Afghan leaders, Sahar’s work is a part of creating a better world. 

Our newest program, Men as Partners in Change (MPC), lays the foundation for developing gender allies so that both men and women are the leaders for the future of Afghanistan. The MPC program aims to engage young men in conversations that challenge current perceptions of masculinity and honor, and seed new thoughts about gender equality and human rights. By including men in the conversation around girls’ empowerment and connecting with young people in the communities where we work, young men have the opportunity to learn about themselves, their vulnerability, and their responsibility to improve the lives of women. 

“In Afghanistan with 40 years of war, men are also victims of war and trauma but we did not hear their stories. The reason that men are more violent toward women and causing violence is that they were brought up that way, with society and culture shaping who they are. Men who experienced war, abuse during childhood, or dealing with a post-conflict situation were more likely to be violent  towards their wife, sister, and mother. Working with men can reduce domestic violence and improve gender equality.”

Shogofa Amini

Throughout the course, students and trainers discuss fatherhood and caregiving, human rights, gender stereotypes, conflict resolution, mental health and trauma, and physical health. As reflected in focus groups and in-depth interviews with students and staff, there have been notable positive impacts on boys learning about the ways to improve the quality of life for girls and women. Reflecting on the program, one student shared:

“Before MPC, I used to feel ashamed walking with my mother. I didn’t want my friends to see me with her,  but now I feel proud walking by her side. I hold her hand. I do not care if people are watching me. This is because MPC changed how I think about women’s rights.”

MPC Student

Both MPC and our other educational programs aim to serve our students with the foundational understanding that with support, young people are able to address the needs of their own communities. 

Each and every donor friend of Sahar is an essential member of our community that champions Afghan girls’ education. We hope you will make a donation gift of a minimum of $100.00 today to provide safe learning environments for girls and foster gender allies that also support the human rights of girls and women in Afghanistan.

With Gratitude,

Ginna Brelsford, Executive Director

Catherine Gelband, Board President

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Sahar remains in Afghanistan

We know many of you have questions about the impact of President Biden’s decision to withdraw American troops from Afghanistan by September 11, 2021. In response to President Biden’s decision, Sahar’s Board of Directors and staff have reaffirmed our enduring commitment to educating young Afghan women and girls. We’ve served over 250,000 girls since September 2001 and witnessed the incredible strides in girls’ lives through education. We will continue to stay on the ground, support our Afghan team, and maintain the vital security precautions that enable our students and staff’s success. 

As an organization that serves Afghan girls and women in a conflict zone, we’ve long anticipated the impacts of a US troop withdrawal. Over the years, we’ve developed a sophisticated risk mitigation strategy that will guide our decisions as further developments and changes occur. 

In announcing the decision to withdraw US troops, President Biden reiterated the United States government’s commitment to diplomacy and humanitarian aid, including the ongoing support for girls education. We are pleased that the Biden administration has outlined significant financial resources for these efforts.

Sahar’s decision to remain in Afghanistan is a testament to our trust and ongoing partnership with our team on the ground and our shared commitment to girls’ education. We will continue to update you as the withdrawal process unfolds. 

As members of our community, donors, and champions of girls’ education, we thank you for your continued commitment to Sahar during a time of significant change. 

With Gratitude,

Catherine Gelband – President of Sahar Board of Directors

Ginna Brelsford – Executive Director

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Welcoming the Biden-Harris Administration

Sahar translates into ‘a new day’ in Farsi and indeed yesterday was a new day in the United States. We celebrate the inauguration of President Joseph Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris.

The ascension of the first woman vice president, the first Indian and African-American woman to the second highest seat in the land, is a moment of victory for all – including immigrants and those who have suffered mightily and even died for equality.

Notably, among the first Presidential actions was to sign an executive order reversing the Muslim ban. We look forward to working with the Biden-Harris administration to champion girls’ rights!

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Celebrating 20 Years

Dear Friends of Sahar,

Our world has suffered immeasurably this past year. Just as the holidays arrive, many families remain separated from one another because of COVID-19. And yet, at the same time, we’ve all learned how to cope with this new normal, defined by uncertainties, zoom sessions, WhatsApp groups, masks, and social distancing. For Sahar, the impacts of COVID-19, the Afghan-Taliban negotiations, and the U.S. troop drawdown have amplified our resilience. Of course, resiliency has been part of Sahar’s story since the beginning.  

It is under these conditions that Sahar celebrates its 20th year of providing education to Afghan girls. Among our many accomplishments, we have delivered innovative gender equity programs to over 250,000 girls and their families, built or repaired 18 public schools, and educated 850 female teachers. Recently, we expanded our work to include engaging men and boys as gender allies. Our programs and schools create safe spaces for girls to study, play, and learn skills for the future, while also fostering peace among families and reducing the dire conditions of poverty.  

For 20 years, we have witnessed the hardships and trauma that endure within families and their communities after decades of war. Throughout it all, we find light and reasons to continue fighting—for gender equity, peace in Afghanistan, and a world where all girls can go to school.  

Sahar looks forward to shaping the lives of another 250,000 girls over the next 20 years. We will continue to build schools, provide educational opportunities to Afghan communities, and champion girls’ rights. Your conviction to promote a better world where all girls can study and reach for their dreams sustains our work in Afghanistan. Thank you. 

Happy Holidays from our family to yours. May the coming year be filled with light and hope of better things to come for our families, Afghanistan, and the world at large. 

Ginna Brelsford                                            Catherine Gelband 

Executive Director                                        Board President 

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Sahar Awarded WomenStrong International Grant

Sahar is pleased to announce that WomenStrong International has awarded us with a two-year
grant (2020-2022) to support Men as Partners in Change (MPC) as part of their innovative
Learning Lab in Girls’ Education and Empowerment (GEE).

WomenStrong finds, funds, strengthens, and shares women-driven solutions to transform lives.
WomenStrong brings together these organizations to learn and share through Learning Labs. In
these Labs, members explore their areas of work by looking to alternative intervention models,
existing academic research, and replicable practitioner approaches.

Sahar is excited to continue growing as part of the GEE Learning Lab, which focuses on how to
keep girls in school and prepare them with the tools and resources they need to live dignified and
peaceful lives. The GEE Learning Lab also works to understand how best to engage boys and
men as partners in girls’ empowerment, a central component of our MPC program.

Despite a challenging year due to COVID-19, the MPC pilot project – also supported by
WomenStrong – proved to be an incredibly valuable program for the communities with which
we work. “I learned by rights and, at the same time, women’s rights. I
understand that human rights are not restricted to men but for all human beings,” says Yasir
Walizadah, an MPC Trainee who did his training entirely remotely earlier this year.

We are grateful to WomenStrong for their continued support and look forward to continuing the
MPC program as we work to promote girls’ education, rights, and empowerment in Afghanistan.

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20th Anniversary Celebration

Join us on Thursday, October 29, 2020 at 6pm PST with Board Member, Joel Meyers, and Executive Director, Ginna Brelsford, to celebrate the 20th anniversary of our work! 

The celebration will include special appearances by our wonderful Afghan Fellows who will speak to the successes and continued challenges of girls’ education in Afghanistan. 

Proceeds from this fundraiser will benefit our mission to empower girls and women with the education they need to build peaceful, thriving communities.

Register here to join us – we look forward to seeing you!