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Q&A with WE Lead Scholar Nadia Behboodi
Your organization, The Afghan Women’s Organization for Research, Learning and Development (AWORLD), focuses on “the sustainable development of women.” Tell us more about what you do and why it’s important to building a peaceful Afghanistan.
The Afghan people, like all other citizens of the world, deserve to live in a peaceful society where they can advance educationally, grow economically, and lead a desired social and political life. Peace will nurture an environment for Afghans to lead in a pluralistic society under a unified constitution. The external dimension of peace is also critical for the world.
Afghanistan’s geopolitical position makes it a strategic location for global security, and its regional connectivity and natural resources make it a great contributor to the global economy. Any further instability in Afghanistan will have universal consequences. Thus, investment in peace will yield gains for the international community.
AWORLD focuses on the socioeconomic advancement of women through the pillars of research and learning, economic development, voice and representation, and women’s empowerment. We believe that equality is only achieved when women are economically self-sufficient. Investing in and empowering women will result in a resilient labor force, healthy families, and cohesive communities to counteract terrorism, a bottleneck to Afghanistan’s peace and stability.
Afghan youth also offer a great window of opportunity. We support emerging female leaders through mentorship and connect them to international female leaders. And lastly, we establish social support systems to connect, inform, and advocate for women’s protection and participation in Afghanistan.
Why is it important that Afghan women be included in peace talks?
The Taliban regime’s rule is the darkest period of Afghan history for women. We do not desire to experience it again. That’s why one of the four pillars of my organization is empowering women.
Women make up 49 percent of the Afghan population. These peace talks are critical discussions laying out the foundation for Afghanistan’s future. We cannot neglect half of the society and their definition of stability and prosperity.
Furthermore, the international community has also invested in promoting and supporting the empowerment of women. For the past 17 years, a massive amount of resources has been spent on turning women into critical partners and participants in Afghanistan’s development.
To date, Afghanistan’s democracy and safeguarding human rights have not been seriously discussed. Women are the ones mostly impacted by the outcomes of these topics. Their participation in the peace talks will ensure their voices are heard and their freedoms are protected.
Ioanna Papas is a Senior Manager, Editorial for the George W. Bush Presidential Center.
Before joining the Bush Institute Ioanna worked at Golin and strategically supported her client, Texas Instruments, in making a move from traditional public relations to content marketing with a focus on social media influencers. Prior to joining Golin, she provided support and expertise for a number of clients including Dish Network, UT Southwestern, Sabre Technologies, HOLT CAT, Hillwood and Benefitfocus. In these roles, she assisted in media relations, external campaign development and execution, and provided writing, editing and strategic implementation support.
Ioanna graduated from Texas Tech University with a degree in online journalism. After completing multiple internships, one resulting in an article published in the New York Times and winning the Investigative Reporters and Editors student award for investigative reporting, she pursued a journalism career in Beaumont, Texas.Full Bio
Farhat Popal serves as Senior Program Manager, Women's Initiative at the George W. Bush Institute. In this role, Farhat leads the WE Lead program and is responsible for research and programmatic efforts that empower women worldwide to lead in their communities and countries.
Farhat studied Political Science/International Relations and History of the Near East at the University of California, San Diego. She earned a Master’s degree in Public Policy from the Goldman School of Public Policy at the University of California, Berkeley. Prior to joining the Bush Institute, she worked on human rights programs in Afghanistan and Central Asia at the State Department's Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor in Washington, DC, and evaluated reconstruction projects in Afghanistan with the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction. While with SIGAR, she spent considerable time conducting field work at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul. In addition to her international work, Farhat evaluated the effectiveness and efficiency of local government programs at the City of San Diego and City of Oakland’s Offices of the City Auditor.Full Bio
Dreamer to Achiever
In Egypt, it was not common for women to run or play sports in public. 2013 WE Lead Scholar Mariz Doss worked to change that perception.
WE Lead Graduation
The inaugural class of WE Lead scholars graduated from the 5-month program on March 21. WE Lead seeks to empower and equip women to become more effective leaders and to advance economic opportunity in their communities and countries.