Empowering Afghan women through education
Afghan Refugees: Stories of hope, strength, and resilience
"I think education is very important to reach our goals. I think learning and giving back to another people, also is important," said Samana.
Malaysia currently hosts some 179,500 refugees registered with UNHCR and 2,640 of them are from Afghanistan. Many of the Afghan refugees arrived in Malaysia since 2001, fleeing conflict and persecution in their homeland. They have made Malaysia their temporary home until it is safe to go back.
With the spotlight on the recent and ongoing humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan, Afghan refugees in Malaysia share their thoughts on the situation in Afghanistan, as well as their determination to not only keep their community strong and empowered while they are seeking refuge in Malaysia, but also to give back to the country that has given them protection.
22 year old Afghan refugee Samana Ahmadi currently lives in Kuala Lumpur with her parents and siblings. They fled the insecurity in Afghanistan four years ago and sought safety in Malaysia.
For nearly two years now, Samana has been a teacher at an NGO education project for refugees and underprivileged Malaysians in Kuala Lumpur. Her passion is to educate and empower women and girls, something she started even while she was a teenager in Afghanistan.
“In Afghanistan, girls cannot go out a lot. My sister and I decided to start a project for girls and women because many women are illiterate. We taught them to read, and paint,” said Samana, who is also an accomplished artist. “At that time I was 17 and my sister was 20 and nobody believed we were going to start that project. We did the project in our community because there were a lot of women who needed it.”
Recent developments in Afghanistan leave her worried for the fate of the women there.
“Actually, mostly my thinking is with girls and women. I am thinking, women will not be able to go to university. And of course, that means the situation for women is going down again. They cannot go out like before and they cannot do the things they used to,” said Samana. “The first day that I hear that that happened, I was really really sad. I was thinking of the girls - they want to do loads of things and they have loads of goals. And suddenly they sit down at home and cannot do anything. I feel sad for them.”
Nonetheless, Samana is determined to improve herself while she is in Malaysia, and contribute.
“I started working at this NGO learning centre because I was thinking of a place where I can learn and I can teach,” she said. “When I came to Malaysia, my self confidence was bad. But here, it is getting better because I am talking to groups of people, I am meeting people.
Samana teaches English and Math to mostly 7 and 8 year old students, and she provides tuition classes for students who need more support.
“I think education is very important to reach our goals. I think learning and giving back to another people, also is important,” said Samana.
“For my country, I hope again, it become peaceful and the women, girls and all the people can go university and work. Also for refugees that live here. I hope that one day we can go to university and we reach our goals. I want equal rights also for women in Afghanistan.”
With additional reporting from Alia Surayya, Kara Simon, and Rahimah Rashith