Farhad Azima at the American University of Afghanistan

Many leaders of the business world are working toward empowering women through education. There is an ongoing struggle between two different ideologies competing for power; the first faction believes in education and development. The second, in theocracy and disempowerment of the people under the guise of religion.

War has been denying millions of children an education, almost 50 million children and young people in conflict areas are of school and the situation has gotten worst with civil wars conflicts. Over the last four decades, Mr. Farhad Azima has started to mobilize and to concentrate his efforts in war torn countries, specifically those in the middle east where violence is directed toward women and children.

In 2002, the Afghan Minister of Higher Education, proposes the establishment of the nation’s first independent university, and in a speech to the nation, President Hamid Karzai stressed the importance of education to the country. The American University of Afghanistan opened its doors in 2006 with an initial enrollment of 50 students. It is the only private, not-for-profit, non-partisan and co-educational university in Afghanistan.

Today, with hard work of Afghani citizens and generous contributions of many including Mr. Farhad Azima, the AUAF enrolls more than 1,700 full and part-time students. It has produced 29 Fulbright Scholars and maintains partnerships with the world’s most prestigious universities, including Stanford University, Georgetown University, and the University of California network.

AUAF: Class of 2011 Graduation from AUAF Communications Office on Vimeo.

In late 2016, the American University of Afghanistan experienced a horrific attack where thirteen people were killed by armed militants. This target was not an accident. American university offers English-language, Western-style of education — including coeducation — to Afghan men and women. For those in the west, this seems normal. But for Afghan society, this is a radical educational practice. In the words of Onaba Payab, female valedictorian of the school, “It is not easy to be an Afghan woman who wants to claim her rights and stand up for herself and for the rights of other fellow women” she believes it is her responsibility to stand up for the rights of those around her. (American University)

Farhad Azima believes in empowering young minds by supporting and creating educational facilities around the world and in refugee camps. Many of AUAF graduates have taken over important roles in their society. Adela Raz (Simmons College — Class of 2008) was appointed First Deputy Spokesperson and Director of Communications for President of Afghanistan in March 2013. Sadiqa Basiri Saleem (Mount Holyoke College — Class of 2009) established the Family Welfare Center for the Elimination of Violence against Women, a domestic violence prevention project that serves 14,000 Afghan women. These women are receiving an education and pursuing political and organizational lives, themselves working to make the world a better place.

Farhad Azima and AUAF
Afghanistan before the war

These individuals are changing the lives of many women, working to make their country a more accepting of its female citizens. Sadiqa’s welfare center has grown from its original student body of 36 girls to more than 3,400 girls in six schools, 200 women in four literary centers, and 120 students in college.

Organization such as Initiative To Educate Afghan Women collect donation for school supplies and computers. One of the easiest ways to help is by making Amazon purchases through the AmazonSmile program, which donates .5% of each purchase (on regular purchases) to their organization of choice. IEAW is a four year education and leadership development program working to create the next generation of women leaders in Afghanistan. We partner with leading US colleges and universities to deliver undergraduate degrees, as well as provide training and guidance for graduates helping other Afghan women assume leadership roles in their homeland.

Farhad Azima and AUAF
KABUL, 25 May 2016 – Students walk around the campus.

In Afghanistan women are part of a growing global workforce. Only 26 percent of Afghanistan’s population are literate, and among women the rate lowers to 12 percent according to latest statistics from UNWomen. The philanthropic efforts of Farhad Azima and his colleagues have contributed, on multiple levels to help women achieve their dreams of gaining higher education. Beheshta, a 20-year old Afghan woman is now teaching English.. For her, “It seemed to me like a fairy tale that I would get a job and earn money for my family while supporting women and girls as a whole.” Perhaps, with the continuation of efforts like those of Farhad Azima, a better world for women seeking education and empowerment will be created.

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