Under sunny skies and autumnal temperatures, 258 young Afghan women gathered at Afghanistan University in Kabul to showcase the fruits of three months of intensive training under the USAID Promote Women’s Leadership Development Jawana program.  Jawana is an innovative USAID-funded, five-year program that is designed to instill 18,000 talented young Afghan women with the skills necessary to achieve leadership positions within government, the private sector, the arts and every sector of society.

“It is an honor to Afghanistan University to host such an event, which highlights the achievements of Afghan women,” Deputy President Ms. Marjaan Matin said during the opening address

“I thank Jawana for giving these young ladies the opportunity to implement their dreams,” she added.

The October 17 exhibition highlighted the work of the third cohort of the Jawana program. The exhibition afforded each young woman an opportunity to introduce her project and respond to questions from the audience. One of the projects showcased involved working with five disadvantaged women to cultivate soybeans in the Qala-e-Qazi, Dasht-e Barchi district of Kabul.

“We believe that planting soybeans is more lucrative than cocaine,” joked project team leader Sonya Ghezal.

Nursing graduate 22-year-old Sahar Ahmady and four Jawana colleagues teamed up to produce a short documentary that highlights the misery of gender-based violence by following two young women—one poor and one wealthy—through the trajectory of their young lives.  Ahmady said she was quite excited to be able to participate in the exhibition.

 “Everyone is here to see what are our projects and they encouraged us and share their ideas,” Ahmady said.

Women’s rights activist Humaira Saqeb spoke of the role of women in society and told the Jawana participants, “Each one of you can be a peace messenger through your participation in your family, schools, universities and this kind of work.”