Khalida Jami* is a 22-year-old Herat University Faculty of Law graduate. Before enrolling in the USAID Promote Women’s Leadership Development (WLD) Jawana program, Jami was so shy she could barely express an opinion—particularly when conversing with more senior family members and specifically men. “I used to think that men can be the only good speakers in public and women are not created for any other purpose but to take care of the household chores after marriage,” she recalls.
Although as a top student, Jami failed miserably in her oral exams. “I used to get so stressed and nervous in front of teachers that my mind went blank,” she says.
Today, it is a very different young woman who now stands before audiences of dignitaries to persuade them to support the causes she believes in. The first test of her skills of persuasion occurred even before the end of the Jawana training period. For her final project, Jami teamed up with 14 other Jawana participants to establish a women’s only library at the Abdul Ali Shah Tokhi High School in Herat. Although they successfully launched the project, the library required more books.
In vain Jami tried to meet with Department of Education Director Mr. Raziq Ahmady to support the new library. As it turned out however, Ahmady ended up attending an event that Jami was also invited to—a celebration of International Women’s Day at Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC). Jami persuaded the organizers to allow her to speak about the library before an audience of 350 official and representatives from various human rights organizations and NGOs.
Ahmady was so impressed with Jami’s speech that he pledged to donate 400 books. Local bookseller and publisher Shafi Farooqi also agreed to contribute an additional 100. Since then, Jami has emceed a WLD-sponsored women’s only bicycle rally and led the inauguration of the library. Jami credits Jawana as integral to unleashing a sense of self-confidence and passion that she never even knew she possessed.
“All of my courage is because of my three months with Jawana,” she says. “I always dreamed of being a strong orator . . . and now I am.”
*Name changed for security reasons.