Women for Afghan Women: Two Models for Successful Grassroots Work in Afghanistan

Fahima Vorgetts, Manizha Naderi and Mary Lu Christie '67

Afghanistan

Women for Afghan Women (WAW), founded in April 2001, is a grassroots civil society organization with offices in New York City and Kabul, dedicated to securing the rights of Afghan women. WAW works both in New York and internationally to promote the agency of Afghan women through the creation of safe forums where Afghan women can network, develop programs to meet their specific needs, and participate in human rights advocacy in the international sphere. WAW’s Community Outreach Program in Queens, NY provides essential services for Afghan women and girls. Within Afghanistan, WAW advocates for women’s rights in government ministries and has worked to provide women and girls with access to literacy and vocational training classes and income-generating projects. WAW also operates a Family Guidance Center in Kabul to assist women whose rights are being violated and help them to find practical, attainable solutions to their problems through counseling for both women and men.

WAW Board Member Fahima Vorgetts and and Executive Director Manizha Naderi will discuss their work providing services to women in both Afghanistan and the New York City area. Mary Lu Christie ’67, a member of Women for Afghan Women, will introduce the speakers and frame this discussion on the status of women’s human rights within Afghanistan and in Afghan communities here in New York City.

Fahima Vorgetts has been intimately involved in Afghanistan’s women’s movement since the mid-1960s. She served as director of the Women’s Literacy Program in Afghanistan before leaving the country in 1979, and was a key supporter of the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan, providing funding for underground schools for girls and humanitarian relief during the Taliban’s rule. After the fall of the Taliban, she co-founded the Humanitarian Organization for Orphans and Widows of Afghanistan. Vorgetts is the recipient of numerous awards for her efforts on behalf of the women of Afghanistan.

Manizha Naderi, Executive Director of Women for Afghan Women, was born in Kabul and raised in New York. She joined WAW in 2002 as the director of the organization’s Community Outreach Program in Queens. In 2006, she moved permanently to Kabul to direct WAW’s work in Afghanistan. There, she founded WAW’s Family Guidance Center.

Mary Lu Christie ’67 is a member of Women for Afghan Women. She has traveled to Afghanistan several times, working for Catholic Relief Services to set up preschools in villages north of Kabul, and as a volunteer with WAW.