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Acting on What We Learned by Nermin Ahmad

5 Oct 2022 9:59 PM | Lea-Ann W. Berst (Administrator)
The Afghan Women Project (AWP) was initiated by the National Federation of Business and Professional Women’s Clubs – NYC Affiliate Chapter in August 2021 as a special project to enhance the welcome provided to arriving business and professional women from Afghanistan.
This project was rapidly elevated to becoming a national project for the 103 year old organization as well as an international initiative, taken on by BPW International. The AWP steering committee met twice a week for 12 months.

The original four-pronged approach allowed the AWP special project leaders to learn a great deal not only about the specific needs, trials and tribulations experienced by Afghan women arriving in new cultures, but also about the very real challenges faced by all working women on the move – whether in pursuit of their own careers, as spouses, as migrants choosing to relocate or as asylum seekers and refugees.

This hands-on learning has informed the need for a larger effort, encompassing all working Women on the Move

One critical discovery was that little is routinely in place to support educated, experienced working women find work other than survival jobs. 

We also learned that many women in obliged or forced migration suffer too much post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) to fully understand the options available to them, the questions they need to ask, and their rights in their new country. In the case of the Afghan Women – from being received as honored guests at military bases, they were soon spread across the US, and turned over to the state, county, city and non-profit run social services – who were under obligation to manage the integration of these newcomers according to strict rules governing assimilation of migrants – regardless of origin, or of status.  

While the AWP made every effort to provide tools that could help the working women blossom in American culture, we recognize that while our efforts accurately hit the mark and filled real needs, not everyone was in a position or a condition to understand what we were providing.

We are not a paid social service, and we are not part of the official welcome of the US. We are an organization of women who seek to work together to strengthen the position of working women everywhere. The handful of Afghan women who worked with us have begun to thrive and are finding their way to the life they seek. Constructive change is possible!

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