For years, Zuhra Abar was schooled by her father in her home in Afghanistan. Because of the Taliban’s strict rules regarding women, Zuhra was not allowed to go to school. In 2001, her family came to the United States, and Zuhra jumped right into a Boston high school, continuing on to get her bachelor’s and then master’s degrees.
This month, Zuhra went back to Afghanistan in a new capacity—as Barakat’s newest team member. Years after she left as a young girl who was denied the right to education in her native country, she returns to help women and children gain access to that same fundamental right.
As Barakat’s new Overseas Program Director, Zhura is responsible for managing programs in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Zuhra visited our Women’s Literacy Programs in Afghanistan and spoke with students. The literacy programs provide access to education for women who are unable to attend school for cultural or religious reasons. Sometimes the conversations that Zuhra had with our students reminded her of her own history. “I was so connected to students. When they shared their problems—that their families do not allow them to continue their education—I remembered when… I wanted to go to school and the Taliban would not allow me. I felt their concern and pain.” She spoke of a conversation she had with one young girl in particular.
“I asked her why she wasn’t going to regular school – she said, ‘My family doesn’t allow me to go to school. That is why I decided to study in the literacy course located at one of our neighboring houses.’”
This girl, and girls like her, is a big part of the reason that Zuhra went back to Afghanistan in the first place. “Returning back to Afghanistan made me really happy,” she says. “One of my aims was to return to my home country and help women and girls.”
Zuhra had a different—but equally touching—experience at our schools in the Faryab province of Afghanistan. “The children looked so happy, so smart, and they try their best to learn.” She took a tour of the buildings and was impressed by the environment, calling it “great”. She also spent time with the kids. “At first they were shy, but after a few minutes I couldn’t stop them [from talking].”
Zhura will be stationed out of our Kabul office. She is happy there, although she is not used to how slow life moves there. “Even the internet is slow,” she says. She is, however, happy in her new job and in her new home. “Barakat does so much with so little money—I am proud to be part of such an organization.”