ABOUT THE LEADING CHANGE SERIES
Women in Afghanistan have experienced incredible progress over the last ten years, and the hard-won gains of the last decade must not be reversed. Girls have returned to school to become educated, like their brothers, and women are serving as provincial governors and members of the National Assembly. Their stories inspire us, and remind us of what is at stake for Afghan women. As part of the Women’s Initiative Afghan Women’s Project, we have launched a blog series that spotlights the success stories of courageous Afghan women and girls.
Advocate for Women Facing Domestic Violence
Marzia Nawrozi is a brave young woman with a long-term vision of eliminating domestic violence and violence against women. She understands the power of education, and sees it as a door of opportunity and a means of cultural change that will better the lives of women in Afghanistan.
Education: A Door of Opportunity
Marzia , the fifth of seven children, was born and raised in Herat, Afghanistan. She considers herself “luckier than many girls” because her father taught Marzia and her sisters at home when the Taliban closed girls’ schools in Afghanistan. “Life under the Taliban regime was very tough,” she says. “Going to school was my biggest dream. After the Taliban regime ended in 2001, my dream became true and I went to a real school.”
In 2008, Marzia finished high school and applied for an opportunity to pursue her undergraduate degree in the United States under a special scholarship program funded by the Initiative to Educate Afghan Women (IEAW). “In Afghanistan, it is very difficult for a woman to leave home alone to pursue an education in the United States,” Marzia says. “My parents supported me, but sometimes traditions and customs caused problems for me.” She successfully convinced her family to allow her to forgo early marriage in order to pursue educational opportunity.
Through an IEAW scholarship, Marzia attended Meredith College in Raleigh, North Carolina. “Now, I am a college graduate,” she says proudly. “When I compare myself between now and the first day I joined the IEAW program, I see that I have improved and changed a lot. IEAW has helped me become a better person; I am now a woman with better ideas and more confidence.”
Educated to Serve
As one of less than 12 percent of Afghan women who are able to read and write, Marzia feels a sense of obligation to serve other Afghan women. She has thrown herself fully into efforts to battle domestic violence and violence against women in Afghanistan and in refugee communities in the United States.
“Since a very young age, violence and discrimination against women and girls made me sad and disappointed,” she says. As a seven year old, Marzia witnessed a neighbor beating his wife. It was the first time she had seen such violence, and she remembers the incident in detail. When she entered school, Marzia saw and heard more stories of injustice against women and girls. “When I was in the eighth grade, one of my classmates committed suicide because her in-laws didn’t want her to go to school. When I was in the ninth grade, my best friend was forced to marry her first cousin, and by the age of seventeen, she was a hopeless widow with two children.” Confronted with such injustice, Marzia vowed to study hard and work to help oppressed and abused women and girls.
As a high school student, Marzia worked with young women in the Juvenile Rehabilitation Center in Herat Province. She taught vocational training and literacy classes for women at the center. Marzia learned that many women there were imprisoned because they had tried to flee abusive home situations. “I saw and heard so many heartbreaking stories about women who were innocent and did not deserve to be treated like criminals for trying to escape abuse.” Marzia says that witnessing such injustice and suffering was difficult, but it gave her a strong desire to improve the treatment of women, no matter where they live.
While in the United States, Marzia has sought opportunities to help develop her skills in the protection of women’s rights. She volunteers at WomenNC, InterAct and Kiran in Raleigh, North Carolina, where she translates for Farsi, Dari and Pashto-speaking immigrant and refugee women who are seeking refuge from domestic violence.
Marzia’s research on “Violence against Immigrant and Refugee Women in North Carolina” was featured at the 57th session of the United Nations’ Commission on the Status of Women in New York City. While at the UN, Marzia met women from all over the world facing similar challenges to their physical and psychological well-being. “I learned that the problem of violence against women is multi-faceted and will not be solved overnight. I learned that in many countries, the problem stems from tradition, culture and power. In order to change this culture, women and men will have to be educated.” She adds, “Changing cultural norms is not easy and it will take many years. But starting the process of educating men and women is the only way to solve the problem.”
Marzia hopes to pursue a graduate degree and to continue her work with the United Nations and other humanitarian organizations working to help women in Afghanistan and other parts of the world. She would like to thank IEAW, Meredith College and the local families who supported her while she was away from home. “I will always remember and appreciate them!”
The Year in Review: The Bush Institute's Global Impact
The George W. Bush Institute marched forward in 2016 toward its goals of developing leaders, advancing policy, and taking action to solve today's most pressing challenges. The year also saw Kenneth Hersh become president and CEO of the George W. Bush Presidential Center, as his predecessor, Margaret Spellings, departed to head the University of North Carolina System. As we look back over 2016, here are five top moments from the Bush Institute's Global Leadership Impact Center, which houses the Human Freedom Initiative, the Women's Initiative, and our global health initiative through our affiliate Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon. Bush Institute Releases We Are Afghan Women: Voices of Hope Book The book launched with an event at the Bush Center featuring a poignant conversation between Mrs. Bush and Razia Jan, who is featured in the book, moderated by Greta Van Susteren. Mrs. Bush promoted the book with a media tour throughout March, including interviews with the TODAY show and Glamour&
“Voice of Hope” Dr. Sakeena Yacoobi Awarded 2017 Sunhak Peace Prize
Dr. Sakeena Yacoobi, founder and executive director of the Afghan Institute of Learning (AIL) and one of 29 inspiring individuals featured in the Bush Institute’s book, We are Afghan Women: Voices of Hope, has been selected for the 2017 Sunhak Peace Prize for her more than 20 years of work as an educator and humanitarian. The Sunhak Peace Prize was established to honor individuals who make significant contributions to address worldwide suffering, conflict, poverty, and threats to the environment by promoting a comprehensive, future-oriented vision of peace. In Afghanistan, Dr. Yacoobi has done just that. After the Taliban closed girls’ schools in the 1990s, Dr. Yacoobi’s AIL supported 80 underground home schools for 3,000 girls. Today, the organization rebuilds education and health systems in Afghanistan as well as provides emergency and legal aid. Seventy percent of AIL’s beneficiaries are women, and the organization is run mainly by female leadership. In ad
From Dallas to Kabul, Girls Can Code
The Bush Institute’s Women’s Initiative team recently sat down with Dialexa, a Dallas-based technology company that offers holistic product development services, to learn more about our shared interest in advancing opportunities for women and girls in Afghanistan. Sixty-three percent of the population of Afghanistan is under the age of 25 and like most millennials, despite lacking technology infrastructure, they remain hungry for innovation and opportunity. Nourishing this appetite in tandem with gender empowerment, Dallas-based companies Dialexa and Vinli are helping to foster the talent and tenacity of high school girls interested in computer programming through a partnership with the Womanity Foundation. Launched by Womanity in April 2016, “Girls Can Code” is a vocational program in two of the largest girls’ public high schools in Kabul, Afghanistan with the approval of the Ministry of Education. The intent of the program is to increase employment ra
Mrs. Bush Discusses 15th Anniversary of Radio Address on Afghan Women
Today marks 15 years since Mrs. Laura Bush delivered her historic President’s weekly radio address – a first for a First Lady – to direct international attention to the Taliban’s oppression of women. As First Lady, she made three trips to Afghanistan, and for more than a decade, she has led efforts through the U.S.-Afghan Women’s Council to protect the hard-earned rights of women in that country. She wrote the forward for the Bush Institute’s latest book, We Are Afghan Women: Voices of Hope, published earlier this year. The Bush Institute recently spoke with Mrs. Bush about the 15th anniversary of her momentous radio address, the gains made by Afghan women, the challenges that remain, and her hope for the future of Afghanistan. You have been a resolute advocate for Afghan women, becoming the first First Lady to deliver the Presidential Radio Address on November 17, 2001. Why was it important to you to deliver that message? After September