‘Helping communities shape their own future,’ Barakat’s slogan is core to our mission, with this we believe in respecting social norms. All of our schools and literacy courses in Afghanistan and Pakistan are run by local staff. Understanding the culture in the areas we work in is an important part of our mission.
Recently, Barakat decided to add a new position to our staff, an Overseas Program Director, in an effort to further improve our programs. Please join us in welcoming our newest staff member, Zuhra Abhar. Zuhra, a dual citizen of Afghanistan and US, joined us this month and will be based in our Afghanistan office.
Zuhra, who is fluent in both Dari and Pashto, was born in Afghanistan where she attended school until the sixth grade. At this point the Taliban took over the country and banned girls from receiving and education. As a result, Zuhra was forced to continue her education at home under the guidance of her father. When she and her family moved to the United States in 2001, Zuhra had not been enrolled in a formal school for four years. Still, she made the jump, joining the tenth grade at a high school in Boston.
More recently, Zuhra graduated from the Heller School for Social Policy and Management at Brandeis University with a Dual Master of Arts in Sustainable International Development and Coexistence and Conflict Resolution. Zuhra previously obtained her undergraduate degree in International Relations and Sociology from Regis College in 2008.
In addition to her education, Zuhra has extensive field experience regarding education issues and women’s rights in both Afghanistan and Boston. Last year, as a member of the Mercy Corps, Zuhra worked as a research assistant in Afghanistan, designing and implementing capacity-building programs for women in Kabul.
“An estimated 90% of women and 63% of men in rural areas of Afghanistan, where the majority of the population lives, are illiterate. Having higher literacy rates in Afghanistan will contribute to the eradication of poverty, improvement of the health system—particularly in terms of reproductive health and child mortality—and the ability of Afghans to enjoy a peaceful and democratic society,” stated Zuhra.
We look forward to this new phase at Barakat. We are certain that Zuhra will bring many positive changes to our programs in Afghanistan and Pakistan. “ I believe that Zuhra is the perfect candidate for the position of Overseas Program Director for Barakat Inc. She has the educational training and experience to enhance our existing capacity building measures for Barakat’s local staff in Afghanistan and Pakistan; and she also possesses a natural, ingrown cultural sense of ease for working in these countries, where she herself has deep roots and a sense of belonging,” stated Dr. Arti Pandey, Barakat’s Director of Programs.
Again, a warm welcome to Zuhra, our newest staff member!