Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani delivered a commencement address in Kabul earlier this month to the first Afghan women graduates from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Women’s Leadership Development program.
The Women’s Leadership Development Program is one component of USAID’s ambitious Promote program, the largest women’s empowerment program in the world. Promote launched the Women’s Leadership Development Program in July 2015 with a ceremony at Kabul University attended by US and Afghan government representatives, university students, and women’s rights leaders. So far, 689 Afghan women leaders have completed the program.
Graduates created an implemented a variety of projects, ranging from public education campaigns on gender-based violence to the development of home-based businesses. The purpose of these projects, according to USAID, is to create a “multiplier effect,” where those touched by the projects will in turn pass on the lessons to other Afghan women.
The skills learned were both practical and, for some, transformational. “We learned so much,” explained one graduate. “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.”
The First Lady congratulated participants on all they had learned and implored them “to get to work.” She continued, “the ultimate goal should always be to rebuild this beautiful country of ours into a harmonious and prosperous country where both men and women can live a happy and fulfilling life.”
USAID announced Promote in the fall of 2014. A five-year program, Promote will invest up to $416 million into the education, training, and promotion of Afghan women in civil society, government, and business. The program is geared to Afghan women between the ages of 18 and 30 who have had secondary education, and focuses on four areas: leadership training; increasing representation of women in decision-making roles within the government; women’s inclusion in the workplace, particularly in technology, finance, and administration; and strengthening the capacity of women’s rights groups and networks.