February 25th 2012 Afghan Student Association’s Afghan Women Fundraiser

I attended a fundraiser at the University of Ottawa organized by the Afghan Student Association (ASA). Here is a description of ASA:

The Afghan Student Association is an academic, non-profit, student-run social club created by the students of the University of Ottawa and Carleton University. Throughout the years we have been working towards building an awareness of the Afghan culture within the community and raising funds to aid children deprived of education rights by working alongside other local clubs.

The event focused on the need to “Educate, Empower, and Advance” Afghan women. It was co-sponsored by the Embassy of Afghanistan in Ottawa and was raising funds for the World University Service of Canada (WUSC) teacher training program in Afghanistan.

The highlight of the event was a presentation by Sadiqa Basiri Saleem, an Afghan Women’s Rights activist who is currently studying for a Masters in Communications at the University of Ottawa. Here is her biography from the Vital Voices Website:

As a refugee living in Pakistan, Sadiqa Basiri Saleem was close to earning a medical degree when the Taliban shut down her Afghan-run school. When she returned home to Wardak province after the fall of the Taliban, she found 150,000 girls with no hope for an education — for years, the regime had forbidden girls over the age of eight from attending school.

So Sadiqa and three other women pooled their money. They provided 36 girls with uniforms, supplies and funding to study in an abandoned mosque.

Outcries against “superfluous” women’s education and anonymous threats poured in, but the Oruj Learning Center flourished. The Center now educates over 2,700 girls in six schools and more than 200 women at four literacy centers.

Sadiqa has also established the Family Welfare Center for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, a domestic violence prevention project that provides services to 14,000 Afghan women, trains government staff on domestic violence and encourages spiritual leaders to discuss women’s issues constructively.

Her goals are ambitious — two new schools for returnees and internally displaced persons, an Afghan Women’s Leadership Institute to train high school graduates in business management and leadership skills, and an expanded gifted students program.

At the tender age of 28, Sadiqa has already made a lifetime of extraordinary contributions to the development of a new Afghanistan.

Unfortunately, I had to leave early and missed a speech by Afghan Canadian feminist blogger Zahira Sarwar but she writes about her presentation on her blog here.

I love how we have so many wonderful people living in Ottawa, even if they are here for only a short time!

Further Reading:

Afghan Student Association’s Website

About Sadiqa Bashiri Saleem

Profile from Mount Holyoke College

Oruj Learning Center’s Website

Home-Schooling (Newsweek, 2009) article available online

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