Forum in Response to the Afghanistan Crisis: Sahar—Education for Afghanistan Girls

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Response to the Afghanistan Crisis: Sahar—Education for Afghanistan Girls

WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 8, 2021, 7— 8:30 P.M., via Zoom, registration required.

The distressing reports out of Afghanistan in recent days are horrifying. Twenty years ago Sahar was launched in northern Afghanistan as an NGO serving girls. More than 250,000 girls have been educated in 18 schools in the region, and programs to reduce early marriage and build male allies took root. Saint Mark’s member Ginna Brelsford led this project until last year, and remains actively engaged with new leaders—two Afghan women here in the U.S. whose families are still in Afghanistan. Join this forum to learn more, to receive updates from the region where the schools, now closed, have had such an impact. While the future remains unclear, and the safety of the Sahar staff is of grave concern, there is hope that the education these women have received will continue to have positive impact, even in such difficult times.

Ginna will be joined by Sahar’s Program Manager, Shogofa Amini, a native of Mazar-e-Sharif who has been working with Sahar since 2018, as well as Executive Director Malahat Mazaher. Learn more about Shogofa, Malahat, and Ginna below.

Registration is required to receive the link.

About Shogofa Amini

A native of Mazar-e-sharif, Afghanistan, Shogofa traveled to Seattle from Massachusetts to begin her fellowship with Sahar in July of 2018. She earned her Bachelor of Arts in International Relations from Regis College in Weston, Mass., graduating with honors in 2016. During her time at Regis, Shogofa was a member the Pi Gamma Mu International Honor Society in Social Sciences, was accorded the Mary C. Bryan Award for an essay on women’s rights in Afghanistan, and was named a “Pillars of the Community” honoree. Shogofa is currently enrolled in the University of Washington Global Health Masters Program.

Shogofa’s childhood education was interrupted in 1996 due to the ascendancy of the Taliban, but she has since dedicated her life to learning and service, with a focus on the rights of girls and women in Afghanistan. She began contributing poetry to the Afghan Women’s Writing Project in 2009 and attended the School of Leadership Afghanistan (SOLA) in 2010 before making her way to the U.S. to further her education. In addition to her studies, Shogofa served as an intern for the Feminist Majority Foundation, contributing to a project aimed at providing more educational programs for women in Afghanistan. She also worked in the office of U.S. Rep. Seth Moulton, researching immigration issues.

Shogofa believes that being a woman in Afghanistan is not about being oppressed, weak and afraid, but rather involves learning what is necessary to become strong. Her desire is to promote the education of women, support their rights, and advocate for gender equality. Shogofa is confident that her passions will be supportive of Sahar’s mission to create real, positive change for the girls and women of Afghanistan.

About Malahat Mazaher

Born and raised in Kabul, Afghanistan, Malahat is passionate about mission-driven and community-oriented organizations which is what initially drew her to Sahar in 2016 as a Fellow and later on as a field monitoring and evaluation consultant in the Balkh province in 2018. Graduating from the Heller School for Social Policy and Management at Brandeis University with a dual degree, M.A. in Sustainable International Development and M.Sc. in Global Health Policy and Management in 2020, Malahat chose to apply her breadth of knowledge in international development, women's empowerment, disability health, fundraising and international management and development in the best way she knew how, by returning to Sahar.

She believes that sustainable development of communities is possible through continued investments in the education systems and removing barriers to accessing education and is a powerful tool that can be used to bring about lasting change. She is eager to carry out Sahar’s mission to close the achievement gap for Afghan girls and envisions a future for Afghan girls where they can access quality education and fully unlock their potential.

About Ginna Brelsford

Ginna Brelsford brings over 30 years of experience in government, business and the nonprofit world of international development.

Ginna’s commitment to gender equality and access to education began with a focus on literacy in Brazil and spanned two decades of work in Russia, Latin America and Asia.

Ginna served as the executive director of Sahar, an international non profit that provides education for Afghan girls between 2010-2021. Ms. Brelsford turned over the leadership of Sahar to Malahat Mazaher, a native of Kabul, Afghanistan in June 2021.

A former executive director at Pura Vida Coffee Company, Ginna is known for her ability to
blend social entrepreneurial innovation with poverty eradication. She has served at the
gubernatorial level as well as worked with the Russia America Foundation on a number of
USAID projects promoting civil society and economic development.
A strong advocate for women’s empowerment, she authored a book on women leaders in Alaska and toured with Bono to eradicate HIV/AIDS for the One Campaign at World Vision. An
explorer of frontiers, Ginna was among the first woman to ski across the Bering Strait from
Russia to Alaska.

Ginna graduated from Brown University with a BA in World Religions and Sociology, the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University with a MA in International Affairs and a recent recipient of a certificate in Global Mental Health and Refugee Trauma from the Harvard Medical School.

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