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Turning Inward is Not America’s Answer
Gayle Tzemach Lemmon recently wrote a moving piece about the xenophobic period we are experiencing in America today. As she wrote, “in this moment of terror is a time to define who we are as Americans.” In times of uncertainty and fear, human nature’s tendency is to turn inwards and isolate ourselves from those who do not look or act like “us.”
I have had the opportunity to meet and work with a number of Afghan women both at home and abroad for the Bush Institute’s latest book, We Are Afghan Women: Voices of Hope. These women are not only inspiring and hardworking, they are grateful for the opportunity to live in the United States. And they look an awful lot like “us.” They love this country and are deeply appreciative of the opportunities it offers because they have seen the alternative firsthand: oppression because of gender; war as a result of fear; and a withholding of the most basic of freedoms.
Mina Sherzoy, an Afghan woman featured in We Are Afghan Women, is often called a “bridge” between Afghanistan and the United States as a result of her having lived in both countries. In her story, Mina poignantly explains, “After September 11, my body was in the United State but my mind was in Afghanistan. I wanted to do something. …I wanted to come [to Afghanistan] and make a difference. I cherished my life in the United States. The U.S. gave me security, the U.S. gave me everything, but wanted to share what I have with my Afghan people, with the women, with the men.”
If “we hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal,” then we should not be divided into categories of Afghan Americans, Hispanic Americans, African Americans or White Americans – we are just Americans. And as Americans, together we grieve the senseless loss of too many lives gone.
Betsy Martin, Regional Development Director, joined the George W. Bush Presidential Center in 2013. A member of the development team, she is responsible for building relationships with corporations, foundations, and other non-profit organizations. She works closely with Bush Institute program directors to obtain support for projects in education reform, economic growth, human freedom, global health, women's empowerment, and aid to U.S. military veterans.
Most recently, Martin served as Deputy Director of the Women's Initiative at the George W. Bush Institute. In this role, she was responsible for setting and implementing the vision of the Women's Initiative which seeks to empower women worldwide to lead in their communities and countries. During her tenure, Martin directed a year-long leadership program for rising women leaders in the Middle East and North Africa and highlighted stories of hope in Afghanistan through the publishing and promotion of We Are Afghan Women: Voices of Hope.
Prior to joining the Bush Center, Martin served as a Senior Event Coordinator for the Washington Speakers Bureau where she managed speaking engagements and advance for Mrs. Laura Bush, Jenna Bush Hager, Barbara Bush, and Governor Jeb Bush. Martin served in the Bush Administration as Scheduler and Trip Coordinator to Mrs. Laura Bush.
A native of Mississippi, Martin graduated from Samford University with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication Studies. She serves on the Advisory Board for the Akola Project.
What’s Happening in Afghanistan?
While there have been tremendous gains in Afghanistan, lack of security threatens these gains daily.
Q&A with Dr. Nilofar Ibrahimi, Member of Parliament, Afghanistan
Dr. Nilofar Ibrahimi is a member of the national assembly of Afghanistan. She represents Badakhshan province in the Wolesi Jirga (house of representatives). Her story is one of survival, pursuit of dreams, and dedication to women’s well-being and health. Here, Dr. Ibrahimi shares her thoughts on the current state of Afghan women’s empowerment, the challenges women face in achieving equal rights, and the impact women have on the country’s long-term peace, security, and prosperity.
In Case You Missed It: The Breadwinner, an animated film about the strength and resilience of Afghan women and girls, premieres in the U.S.
The Breadwinner, a new animated film from executive producer Angelina Jolie, tells the story of Parvana, an 11-year-old girl growing up under the Taliban in Afghanistan in 2001. When her father is wrongfully arrested, Parvana disguises herself as a boy in order to support her family. With dauntless perseverance, Parvana draws strength from the stories her father told her, and ultimately risks her life to discover if he is still alive. The Breadwinner is an inspiring reminder of the power of stories, and their potential to unite and heal us all. It also provides an important spotlight on the struggle endured by Afghan families during the Taliban regime and the resilience of women and girls and their influence in building a brighter future for Afghanistan. Last year, the Bush Institute released We Are Afghan Women: Voices of Hope, which spotlights more of these courageous stories of Afghan women. Learn more about the book and our work by visiting:&nb