More than 300 young Afghan women gathered on January 11 for the first ever graduation of the Promote Women’s Leadership Development Jawana program. It was an occasion of joy for the emerging Afghan women leaders and one of hope for Afghanistan.
The ceremony — which marks a singular milestone in USAID’s on-going commitment to women’s empowerment — took place at the Amani High School in Kabul. In total, 689 women throughout Afghanistan have completed the course.
Dignitaries, government officials and USAID representatives were present to laud the young graduates and to stroll past the displays showcasing their final projects. Afghanistan’s First Lady Rula Ghana was also on hand to deliver the commencement address.
“If you want the change you champion to be efficient and long term, you need to work from within your society,” the First Lady said. “You need to build on those aspects that are positive, on the existing support networks such as the extended family, the culture of mediation, and the tradition of helping each other.”
Jawana participants planned and found resources to implement their final projects with an eye toward sustainability and to improve the wellbeing of their more disadvantaged sisters. Some students directed their newfound skills to raising awareness of breast cancer, while others undertook campaigns to draw attention to gender-based violence, drug addiction, health, hygiene and human rights. Other projects focused on entrepreneurship: assisting women to develop home-based businesses such as mushroom cultivation and other activities that will help support their families.
The aim is to create a ”multiplier effect.” Put more simply, Jawana student projects are designed to assist other women to acquire information and skills, which they in turn will pass on to others and so on.
“We learned so much,” 21-year-old Tugar told one reporter excitedly. “I used to be so quiet and so scared but now I know that I can help myself and my family while helping others and the entire country.”