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Suraya Pakzad

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Anyone who has picked up a newspaper in the last eight years should be well aware of a group known as the Taliban. But only those who have lived under its rule know the full impact of its violent existence. And it’s those whose muffled cries for help need it the most. It’s Afghan women who lack the rights or the means to escape to a better life.

The daily struggles of women in Afghanistan are marked by hopelessness and despair. Women are imprisoned for things they don’t understand, beaten (or worse) by their husbands for simply looking at another man in the eye, or burned at their own hands in an attempt to escape their fate. But one Afghan woman has relentlessly put her life in danger to expose their plight and improve their lives. In honor of Women’s History Month, Penn State Brandywine will welcome Afghanistan’s most devoted champion of women’s rights, Suraya Pakzad, to campus on Wednesday, March 4.

"I cannot see a woman suffering," she said. "We are half of the population of the world. We are created by the same God."

Pakzad is the executive director of the Voice of Women Organization, one of the leading and most effective non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in Afghanistan. The charity’s main goal is to strive for the freedom and empowerment of women in Afghan societies.

In 1998, Pakzad began the Voice of Women Organization in secret in Herat, during the oppressive rule of the Taliban. Today, she helps women organize, run, and win elections in Afghanistan openly.

Pakzad, who on March 10, 2008 was honored as a recipient of the International Women of Courage Award in Washington, D.C., presented to her by then Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, supports programs in prisons for women and their children. In the communities, she helps create education centers, health centers, food centers, business development programs, shelters, and legal assistance for abused women. She also partners with the non-profit organization, Traveling Mercies, building safe community water systems in Herat Province.

Pakzad is a loyal supporter of Afghan women’s rights because she believes Afghanistan will never truly prosper without the contribution of its female population.

During her visit to campus, Pakzad will explore the daily horrors faced by Afghan women and their struggles for independence and basic rights at 12:30 p.m. in room 203 of the Commons Building (open to students, faculty, and staff only) and at an additional gathering, which is free and open to the public, at approximately 5:30 p.m. in the Tomezsko Classroom Building, room 103.

For more information, please contact Risa Pitman at 610-892-1255 or RLP29@psu.edu.

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