Georgetown University

Council Projects



Afghan Institute of Learning (AIL) leads the Mobile Literacy Initiative in Afghanistan, a project initiated by the UNESCO Chair at Georgetown University with support from the Geraldine P. Waldorf Fund. Since support for the first few classes, AIL has been able to attract support each year and there is now a long waiting list of women and older girls who wish to take the class. The initiative teaches literacy through the use of mobile phones and texting interaction between teachers and students, using a curriculum developed by AIL and including 2000 messages on a wide variety of life skills subjects. Since 2012, there have been 2,291 women who have completed the class. After just four months, 73% of the students tested at the 4th grade reading and writing level. Students continue to improve, and, in 2018, 91.6% of the students tested at the 4th grade level. Most students continue their studies after completing the class. (Dr. Sakena Yacoobi, Heidi Waldorf, Dr. Phyllis Magrab; updated 2019).

Aschiana Foundation supports the grassroots work of Aschiana's programs in Afghanistan by providing children working on the streets and those in the internally displaced persons (IDP) camps with literacy and vocational training, healthcare, psycho-social recovery support, recreational activities and the opportunities to grow and develop in a safe environment. Aschiana, meaning "nest" in Dari, was founded in 1995 by Engineer Yousef Mohammed, who noticed the growing numbers of working street children—children who cannot attend school full time because they must work to support themselves and their families. Since then, Engineer Yousef has made it his mission to educate and empower these children. Today, in addition to the main center in Kabul, Aschiana operates in 6 provinces, and in 7 IDP camps—serving more than 3,500 children a day. Since its inception 20 years ago, Aschiana has served over 80,000 children. (Mary Jo Myers and Leslie Cunningham; updated 2019)

Ayenda Foundation educates 306 students from pre-school to 7th grade in Ayenda School, which now operates as a private school under the supervision of the Afghan Ministry of Education, enabling it to serve all children in the province—not only orphans as it did in the past.  In 2018, Ayenda launched a pre-school program, a curriculum not offered in Afghan public schools. Since 2015, Ayenda Foundation has partnered with the worldwide 10,000 Global Girls Initiative to improve and empower Afghan girls through storytelling, creative expression, literacy and mentorship. Ayenda also provides scholarships to female students from provinces throughout Afghanistan enabling them to attend the American University of Afghanistan (AUAF). (Shamim Jawad, Timothy McBride, Dr. Marna Whittington)

The Bayat Foundation is nourishing the lives of Afghans by empowering primary, secondary, and university level education throughout the nation. In 2019, the Foundation launched The Bayat Scholars Program at The American University of Afghanistan, to build a new generation of highly-skilled and exceptional Afghan IT professionals who will lead Afghanistan’s technological innovation and entrepreneurship in the years ahead. (Fatema Bayat and Charlie Ponticelli; updated 2019)

The E-Higher Education Initiative has passed the necessary legal framework and launched its first five massive open online courses (MOOCs). These courses seek to meet the demand for higher education in Afghanistan, where security, remoteness, finances, work, family, or discrimination might prevent many from attending university full-time. Afghanistan has joined Harvard and MIT's learning management system, edX, along with two hundred top universities of the world. Using this platform, Afghanistan is poised to exponentially increase the number of people able to take courses taught and created by professors and experts, in local languages, utilizing a blended model of both in-class and online learning opportunities. (Maryam Qudrat; updated 2019)

The Foundation for Afghanistan awards scholarships to Afghan students and partners with local Afghan and U.S. universities and colleges to offer scholarships to Afghans, particularly young women. (Ambassador Said Jawad)

Friends of the American University of Afghanistan (AUAF) raises funds to support scholarships, academic programs, and new buildings on campus, including the International Center for Afghan Women Economic Development (ICAWED). (Leslie Schweitzer)

The Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security seeks to enhance U.S. national and global security by elevating and examining the effect of women's participation to: improve peacemaking, peacekeeping and peace-building; strengthen conflict prevention and resolution initiatives; mitigate humanitarian emergencies; and foster democratic political transitions. GIWPS is particularly active on Afghanistan issues, working on multiple fronts to support the participation of Afghan women in the peace talks. (Ambassador Melanne Verveer; updated 2019)

The Initiative to Educate Afghan Women is a four-year undergraduate education and leadership development program working to create Afghanistan’s next generation of women leaders in Afghanistan. The Initiative partners with U.S. colleges and universities to deliver undergraduate education to Afghan women who want to help other women of Afghanistan in their struggle for gender equity. The Initiative also provides leadership training and career guidance to prepare these young women for roles at the forefront of political, economic ­and social development in their homeland. (Christian Wistehuff)

The Lamia Afghan Foundation (LAF) was established in 2008 to improve the lives of girls and women through the building of schools (seven built) for girls, by providing economic opportunities for women, and by providing vocational and job training for women. The LAF also provides humanitarian aid to needy families in Internally Displaced Persons (IDP)/Refugee camps, orphanages, schools, hospitals, and rural villages. The LAF moved and distributed a large load of humanitarian aid in the winter of 2018-2019. To date, the LAF has sent over 3.5 million pounds of humanitarian aid to 22 provinces in Afghanistan, supported four hospitals in Kabul with equipment and supplies, moved an ambulance from Chicago to a clinic LAF helped to build in Khairabad, in western Afghanistan, and humanitarian supplies for distribution to villages in Laghman, Nangarhar, and Nuristan Provinces to help refugee returnees from Pakistan. The LAF has provided teachers for a school in the largest IDP Camp in Kabul and continues to support the seven schools it has built, all operated by the Afghan Ministry of Education. We are providing a scholarship for a young girl, Farzana, from Faryab Province, to attend school in Kabul, preparing to hopefully attend American University of Afghanistan on a scholarship.  (Lt. Gen. (ret) John and Jan Bradley; updated 2019) 

Mothers as First Teachers, inspired by USAWC Honorary Co-Chair Hillary R. Clinton's work in early childhood development (ECD), MAFT provides ECD and parenting instruction to Afghan mothers in northeastern Afghanistan, incorporating mobile phone technology, in partnership with Child Fund Afghanistan. (Jill Iscol and Dr. Phyllis Magrab; updated 2019)

The Nooristan Foundation has continued to implement its “EmPower a Village” campaign,
which has been bringing light to villages since 2013 through electricity, followed by enlightenment from education. The concept has been simple and proven to be effective: Provide
micro-hydro equipment and involve communities in installation and maintenance. So far, twelve
villages have received equipment, which has significantly improved life for families in these
areas. One of the reasons this program has been successful is the participation of the community
in the project. In 2018, Nooristan Foundation began construction of the Bibi Aisha primary
school in the western district of Nooristan province, once of the most underserved areas in the
country. The school will provide education for both boys and girls. The school will be
completed in 2019 and include a small clinic given the need for basic health services in the area.
(Mariam Atash; updated 2019)

Sesame Workshop has worked since 2011 to improve educational outcomes in Afghanistan and to foster skills and values that give the next generation the best chance for success. Created in collaboration with local partners, the Afghan adaptation of Sesame Street, Baghch-e-Simsim (“Sesame Garden” in Dari and Pashto), is a multi-media educational initiative designed to meet the developmental needs of children ages 3 to 7, their parents, and caregivers. To date, seven seasons of culturally relevant, Afghan-produced Baghch-e-Simsim programming have reached millions of children through television and radio addressing girls’ empowerment and gender equity, mutual respect and understanding, diversity appreciation, and the cognitive skills that help prepare Afghan children for school and life. Complementing Baghch-e-Simsim’s mass media programming, community engagement outreach initiatives extend the reach of the initiative beyond television and radio to further deepen impact in both rural and urban areas. (Sherrie Westin; updated 2019)

The Sunshine Lady Foundation supports Women for Afghan Women (WAW) in its work to care for, house, and educate the children of Afghan women in prison. These centers serve as residences for children above age 5 whose mothers are in prison. The children in the CSCs go to school and have access to counseling, sports, art, music, and a loving environment designed for their well-being and happiness. Thanks to this effort, with the fourth CSC, it is hoped that there will be virtually no children above age 5 living in prison in Afghanistan. (Doris Buffett)

The Women’s Initiative to Strengthen and Empower (WISE) Afghanistan ensures girls in Kandahar gain access to quality education in a safe and inclusive learning environment. The main focus of the center, as a facility run by women for women in the community, is to empower women and girls with the tools and knowledge they need to achieve their full potential. The majority of girls have never taken an exam in their life and all of them are illiterate. For the students’ first two years, the center focuses on basic education, including Pashto, Dari, and English Literacy, Science, Mathematics, History, and religion. The WISE team then provides mentorship and training for the students to continue their education and particularly focuses on the areas of STEM and teaching. WISE has developed strong partnerships with local and international educational institutions and enables each student to continue their educational journey through our external partners. Over the last five years, WISE has also been supporting existing schools and orphanages throughout all five regions of the country with access to school supplies, trainings, and mentorship. (Alia Rasoully; updated 2019)



The Bayat Foundation is nourishing the lives of Afghans by empowering women’s health through the ongoing construction of a new 25,000 square foot Bayat Maternity & Neonatal Hospital in Kabul that will feature specialist care for obstetric fistula and a women’s cancer clinic. This will be the Foundation’s 13th hospital in Afghanistan, part of a network of care facilities that has treated nearly 3 million patients since 2006. The Foundation is also proud to be holding its sixth annual Gift of Hearing mission in Q3 2019, an initiative which has thus far brought hearing, healing, and hope to more than 7,000 at-risk Afghans suffering from hearing impairment. (Fatema Bayat; updated 2019)

Enabled Children Initiative supports disabled children in Afghanistan who have been orphaned, abandoned, or are at risk of being abandoned. ECI provides comprehensive residential support services in one private care home in Kabul, Window of Hope, and works with Children in Crisis and the Ministry of Labor, Social Affairs, Martyrs, and Disabled (MoLSAMD) to provide support to disabled orphans residing in the two state-run orphanages. In addition to our special education fund, we manage two crisis funds for families who face desperate situations. The Mirza Gul Family Fund was created after a bomb explosion in Nangarhar left the Mirza Gul Family with seven amputee children. The fund is maintained to provide an in-home teacher for the children, an in-home caretaker, as well as any other necessary supplies that are required for their specialized care and rehabilitation. The Frozan Fund, named after the house mother at Window of Hope, is an emergency assistance fund for families with special needs children in desperate situations. The fund provides short-term assistance to help these families get back on their feet. Currently, we are working with the Afghan government to lease a plot of land to construct Afghanistan’s first self-sustaining center for persons with a disability and abandoned children with special needs. It will include a home for orphaned special needs children, an independent living home for adults with special needs that have no families, a special needs school open to the community, a vocational training program, and a comprehensive disability support center. (Lael Mohib and Ilaha Eli Omar; updated 2019)

The Grossman Burn Foundation (GBF)’s mission is to promote effective, sustainable partnership solutions for the comprehensive treatment, care, and support of burn survivors and their families in the United States and around the world. The foundation’s global initiatives include burn care training and support in Afghanistan and Indonesia, publishing a Humanitarian Assistance Manual for worldwide distribution, The Stop Violence Against Women Globally program and developing a Telemedicine Program for training physicians in developing countries. GBF believes in collaboration and strength in numbers. (Rebecca and Dr. Peter Grossman; updated 2019)

HEEDA's vision is to promote a culture of impact and sustainability in Afghanistan through humanitarian, health, education, and economic development programs. Since its founding in 2010, HEEDA has created culturally sensitive programs and research to improve the lives of Afghans. HEEDA is actively organizing and deploying basic resources, technologies and technical assistance to both non governmental and govermental partners in Afghanistan. (Suraya Rashid; updated 2019)

The Lamia Afghan Foundation provides scholarships, basic housing and board during rehabilitation for survivors of land mine accidents and other explosions. The LAF works with
Kabul Orthopedic Organization (KOO) and A Leg To Stand On (ALTSO), a New York
City-based non-profit, to provide custom-made, lightweight, state-of-the-art prosthetics for children. Recently, a girl named Noorzia from Nangarhar has been the focus of our attention and efforts. Noorzia was featured in a New York Times Op-Ed in 2018, which helped raise awareness about the continuing dangers of land mines, IEDs, and other explosives that cause the loss of legs. We are now sending Noorzia to a private school on an LAF scholarship. We recently got new prosthetic legs for a family of seven children in eastern Afghanistan. We continue to seek ways to partner with local and international organizations in collaboration with the Afghan government to increase food security for women and families, establish health clinics in far-flung provinces such as Nuristan, and facilitate opportunities for young people from outside of the capital to obtain medical training to help their communities. (Lt. Gen. (ret) John and Jan Bradley; updated 2019)

Relief International (RI) is an alliance of international non-governmental organizations that operates in seventeen fragile countries across Asia, Africa and the Middle East. By partnering with people in the communities where we work, RI bridges the gap between immediate relief and long-term community development. RI has worked in the health sector in Afghanistan since 1985, with a focus on Ghazni, Kapisa, Kunar, Nangarhar, Nimroz and Paktika. The organization helps to rebuild Afghanistan’s crippled healthcare system by rehabilitating and equipping medical facilities, and training doctors, midwives, female medical staff and surgeons to work in remote areas cut off from services. (Dana Freyer; updated 2019)

Women for Afghan Women (WAW) operates life-saving and life-changing programs in Afghanistan and NY, and advocates for women's rights in Afghanistan, Washington, D.C., and around the world. As a community-based human rights organization, WAW has advanced its mission by working deep in the community, respecting the culture, religion and traditions of their clients. In Afghanistan, WAW operates 32 legal aid centers and emergency and long-term shelters for women and children in 13 of Afghanistan's 34 provinces. Since its inception in 2001, WAW has protected and empowered over 38,000 women and children and educated more than 362,000 individuals (men and women) on women's rights under Islam and the Afghan Constitution. In recent years, WAW has also provided nearly 723,000 conflict-induced internally displaced persons and refugee returnees with protection and monitoring services. (Leslie Cunningham, Masuda Sultan; updated 2019)

The Women’s Initiative to Strengthen and Empower (WISE) Afghanistan has provided access to basic healthcare for thousands of women in communities with limited access to health facilities and a high level of poverty. The primary focus areas are on malnutrition, maternal and child health, and menstrual health and hygiene. The organization started off with providing prenatal vitamins and supplements for pregnant women as well as over-the-counter medicine for impoverished patients through partnerships with local health facilities. Since then, it has provided access to healthcare for over 8,000 women and children and conducted trainings for both health professionals and patients within its various areas of focus. In January 2018, WISE launched Salamat, the first maternal health application in Afghanistan aimed at improving the quality of data among health facilities and to enable health professionals to better address the needs of women and their children. Recently, the WISE team completed a successful pilot of Salamat with five health facilities in Kabul through the support of Johns Hopkins University and received approval from leadership at the Ministry of Health to expand the app throughout Afghanistan. WISE aims to continue to transform health care throughout Afghanistan through its core pillars of technology, education, and advocacy.  (Alia Rasoully; updated 2019)


Economic Empowerment

ARZU Studio Hope and U.K.-based Turquoise Mountain, leaders in artisan training and economic empowerment in Afghanistan, merged effective May 31, 2019 to accelerate the transformation of lives more broadly across Afghanistan through increased scale, expanded sales of artisan-made products, and deeper global consumer outreach. This combination of two well-established innovators in the arena of social entrepreneurship will enable increased numbers of skilled artisans, particularly women, to lift their families and communities from poverty and contribute to economic growth, while preserving the incredible culture of Afghanistan. Turquoise Mountain has taken responsibility for ARZUs weaving centers and social programs in Bamiyan Province, as part of its expanding work with Afghan carpet producers, as well as ARZU’s sales infrastructure and client network in North America. By increasing the visibility of its other high-quality Afghan offerings in jewelery, woodwork, ceramics, calligraphy and painting, particularly in the United States, Turquoise Mountain aims to introduce some 5000 weavers and other artisans to market in the coming years. (Connie Duckworth; updated 2019)

The Bayat Foundation is nourishing the lives of Afghans by empowering women’s entrepreneurial potential through the ongoing implementation of its Bright Futures program designed to teach business skills to Afghan entrepreneurs and create a thriving private sector of small- and medium-sized enterprises.  (Fatema Bayat and Charlie Ponticelli; updated 2019)

The Institute for Economic Empowerment of Women (IEEW)’s signature program, PEACE THROUGH BUSINESS®, has been educating women entrepreneurs in Afghanistan since 2006. Four hundred fifty women business owners have graduated, each creating her own business plan while earning accreditation through our education partner, Northwood University. The PEACE THROUGH BUSINESS® Network for alumnae is garnering visibility in Afghanistan by working with USAID and Afghan government agencies, co-founding the first Afghan Women's Chamber of Commerce & Industry (AWCCI), as well as awarding grants annually through the Bibi Khadija gala awards, and paying it forward in their own communities in myriad ways. Graduates have created nearly 8,000 jobs for their fellow countrymen and women to date. (Dr. Terry Neese; updated 2019)  

Kandahar Treasure employs women artisans from the Kandahar area in order to develop an economic base for the province and support the advancement of women throughout Afghanistan. For the past four years, Kandahar Treasure has been a non-profit project of Afghans for Civil Society. Since its inception in 2003, the number of women artisans who produce the handcrafted products we sell has expanded from 25 to more than 400. Kandahar Treasure is now transforming into an independent for-profit business, marking an important milestone in the creation of economic opportunity and independence for Afghan women. (Rangina Hamidi)

Marshall Plan Charities is developing, on a 50/50 basis with Afghan villagers, its first sustainable, self-sufficient "model village" in Khairabad with wells, crops, a school, a vocational center, and a health clinic. (Joanne King Herring)

Project Artemis is a proven, successful business and leadership training program for Afghan women entrepreneurs, led by the Thunderbird School of Global Management at ASU, a top-ranked international business school located in Phoenix, Arizona, USA. Started in 2005, 86 women have completed the Project Artemis program, creating over 3,000 jobs and training and mentoring an estimated 15,000 fellow Afghan men and women in business and leadership skills. Thunderbird continues to support these women remotely, connecting them to resources and opportunities whenever possible. Thunderbird is currently raising funds for our next cohort of Project Artemis.  (Ambassador Barbara Barrett and Ilaha Eli Omar; updated 2019)

Goldman Sachs’ 10,000 Women Initiative, through a partnership between Thunderbird and the American University of Afghanistan (AUAF), provided 307 Afghan women with high-level business and leadership education from 2008 through 2013. 10,000 Women has assisted graduates in establishing an alumni network and continues to engage these alumni and support areas of need among the rising generation of Afghan businesswomen through the Women’s Center at the AUAF. (Ambassador Barbara Barrett and Ilaha Eli Omar; updated 2019)

Thunderbird for Good was contracted under Development Alternatives, Inc (DAI) to lend expertise and knowledge to the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID)’s Promote: Women in the Economy (WIE) and Musharikat programs. WIE is bolstering women’s inclusion in Afghanistan’s economy and working to ensure that progress made by Afghan women over the past decade endures and advances. Thunderbird for Good’s work has been instrumental in strengthening career counselling and job placement services through a customized job services guide created in concert with our partners in Afghanistan, and facilitating access to quality management tools and information through the creation of a searchable entrepreneurs’ assistant, containing answers to common business questions, step-by-step managerial methods, and tools and templates that business owners can use to increase efficiency and grow businesses in Afghanistan. This work also included success stories of business scenarios from Afghan women business owners and entrepreneurs. The Musharikat program focuses on providing training and support to the civil society sector in Afghanistan. They build coalitions around various aspects of women’s rights. Thunderbird’s role in this project was to create a Train the Trainer curriculum teaching women how to be persuasive. Thunderbird faculty delivered the training to 50 trainers over 10 days in Kabul during March of 2019. The trainers are tasked with themselves delivering training to over 5,000 other women’s rights advocates throughout the various provinces of Afghanistan. In addition, Thunderbird developed a stand-alone card game used in the training and beyond that is designed to strengthen and practice persuasion techniques and methods.  (Ambassador Barbara Barrett and Ilaha Eli Omar; updated 2019)

Relief International’s Women’s Enterprise, Advocacy and Training (WEAT) Program tackles the pervasive discrimination that women in Afghanistan face every day at multiple levels. The Program is a five-year effort started in 2017 and works with a broad range of stakeholders from civil society, government and the private sector in seven districts of Ghazni, Kapisa and Nangarhar. It includes a combination of direct interventions in communities alongside advocacy support to promote an enabling environment for economic empowerment of women and girls. The WEAT Program fosters women-owned businesses by providing them with technical support. It also engages religious leaders and the Afghan police to prevent gender-based violence and child marriage. For instance, in Nangarhar, one of Afghanistan’s most conservative provinces, RI’s training course for 172 mullahs helped them include lessons on preventing child marriage in their Friday sermons. (Dana Freyer; updated 2019)


Leadership Development

Afghan Women Leaders Connect identifies and supports effective and accountable Afghan women educators, doctors and health workers, lawyers and judges, and women in business, through: direct financial support; human rights training; voter education training; and in-depth, year-long business training to help expand and strengthen their organizations. Afghan Women Leaders CONNECT hosts an internet forum where Afghan women’s voices can be heard.  (Diana Rowan Rockefeller)

Georgetown University, home to the U.S.-Afghan Women's Council, hosts the Rising Afghan Women Leaders Initiative for Afghan women leaders from a variety of sectors, bringing them together with Georgetown University students from the Washington DC and Doha campuses.  (Dr. Phyllis Magrab; updated 2019)

Prime Counsel, a legal services provider in Afghanistan, has sponsored a project to highlight
success stories of Afghan women leaders across Afghanistan. In April 2019, three female
writers were selected to conduct research and interviews of women. The series called “Leading
the Way” will be launched in September, with one article every month published each month in
collaboration with a leading think tank in Washington, DC. The objective of the initiative is to
highlight positive stories of success achieved by Afghan women leaders and share the
information through a web platform to connect individuals and organizations to these leaders and
their organizations, promoting collaboration. (Mariam Atash; updated 2019)

The U.S. Institute of Peace is working to increase the chances of a sustainable peace deal for Afghanistan by supporting and promoting women’s interests in peace process discussions while strengthening needed negotiating skills. Over the next year, USIP will focus on strengthening the technical knowledge and skills of women who may have the chance to participate in, or otherwise influence, peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban, as well as on conducting research, identifying relevant local actors, and facilitating dialogues at the grass roots level to identify participants and messages that reflect women’s interests in a peace process outside provincial capitals. In addition, USIP engages local, regional, and national actors through face-to-face meetings, and traditional and social media engagement, highlighting the importance of women working on peace. USIP also works on addressing issues related to prosecution of cases of violence against women and advocates for amending certain provisions of the Penal Code. USIP is partnering with CSOs to identify those articles of law that are discriminatory, conflicting, and inconsistent with the constitution. (Belquis Ahmadi, Palwasha Kakar, Hodei Sultan; updated 2019)

Voices on the Rise: Afghan Women Making the News is a photojournalism exhibition dedicated to courageous Afghan women working towards the reconstruction of their country from all fields—journalism, art, government and human rights, among others. Originally launched across Canada from 2006 - 2009, the exhibition has toured extensively in the United Kingdom, France, Belgium, Holland, and was recently shown at the Embassy of Finland on International Women’s Day, 2018. The exhibition provides an excellent platform for dialogue and helps to build bridges of understanding among its viewers about the resilience and determination of Afghan women role models to bring about constructive and positive change to their country. (Khorshied Samad; updated 2019)