What motivates me is the imbalance and injustice of the world order.
I established AAE because I witnessed the desperation and longing of Afghan women for education during my brief visit of Afghan refugee camps in Pakistan in 1995. My continual motivation comes from a belief that Afghanistan can and will recover from years of war. Most importantly, I feel responsible. Those of us who were lucky to be born in families who could take us out of Afghanistan after the Soviet occupation have a responsibility towards those who we left behind. This does not end with our immediate family or extended family. If we don't have the determination to help the larger community, it will be difficult for our fellow Afghans to achieve their dreams. For me, happiness comes from giving and not from having or taking.
I don't want the future generations to go through what my family went through. Forced migration is the most difficult and painful experience. We use to be a close-knit family living next to one another. I walked to school, holding hands, with my cousins. We visited each other after school everyday, often sharing the same bed and spending evenings together scratching each others' back or playing cards until late hours. While In the US, we lived thousands of miles away from each other and seeing each other once a year was a great joy and we continued to talk about the good times of growing up in Afghanistan.
My interest in education comes from my personal experience and the sense of empowerment I gained from pursuing higher education. The only way for a nation to be sovereign and practice self-determination is when the people are educated and can think for themselves. Education empowers people and once a society is empowered, nothing will hold them back from achieving their potential. I believe in the potential of all Afghans.
My determination comes from witnessing the imbalance of the world order, which I believe can best be addressed by education . The current order lacks inclusivity and causes the chaos we are witnessing everyday. A balanced world order would be based on respect for one another, appreciating each other's values and striving for exchange of values.
Having lived for 23 years in the U.S., I appreciate many social values of the West. And yet, I was born and raised in Afghanistan and my cultural values come from my upbringing. Understanding others' values is the most difficult task and yet we have to make an effort because isolationism is not an option in today's world. Appreciating values of the "other" and respecting these might be a good beginning for all.
When there is imbalance at the continent level, it permeates to the community level and impacts everyone. Today, in Afghanistan, we are suffering from abuse of power, discrimination, lack of justice, and trust. If we look at the wider picture, the world is also suffering from the same disorders. There is very little trust between the East and the West, Muslims vs. others, while wealth is widely equated with power, with levels of inequality growing.
When the world power is being organized based on exclusivity and discrimination, all countries will operate at that level, including Afghanistan.
To bring equality and balance to Afghan society, we need to first, bring balance to the world order. That means white should not be considered better than dark, North would not be better than South, knowledge and history will constitute power not wealth.
People can only reach to that level through compassion and knowledge.
In a minor way, my colleagues and I are trying to set up a model of learning so that Afghan students will learn to become self reflective with an understanding and an appreciation for others' values.
If we succeed, this model can slowly be duplicated and tested through other academic entities. This is a very small step towards changing the world order but it has to start somewhere.
I come from families, on both sides, who were involved in governance and had worked hard to make a difference. So perhaps I am trying to continue what my forebears started.