Projects for Peace: The Vision of Kathryn W. Davis

"My challenge to you is to bring about a mind-set of preparing for peace, instead of preparing for war."


Over the past five years, Narges has taught hundreds of girls at a Kabul high school. She hears their dreams, and she sees their potential as the next generation of social change makers for Afghanistan. But all too often, they are compelled to drop out by age 14. “I have suffered seeing so many girls unable to pursue their dreams just because of their families’ ignorance,” Narges says.

Narges’s own experience with schooling was much different. Both of her parents, despite a lack of formal education, were always adamant their four daughters should have the same educational opportunities as their son. They would let nothing prevent Narges and her sisters from going to school—not even the Taliban.

During the worst of the war that raged during Narges’s childhood, she was too young to realize how risky it was for her to get an education. She and her female peers met secretly in teachers’ homes, outside of normal school hours, to receive underground lessons. “The Taliban would have killed us if they knew,” she says.

"If I know Arabic, I can explain to parents how the Koran actually tells us to educate our girls.”

While threat of death no longer keeps girls out of school in Afghanistan, they still face the barriers of pervasive social norms. Even parents who would consent to educating their girls will not send them to class with a male teacher— and because so few girls have access to higher education, female teachers are in short supply. “At some point, this cycle of ignorance must be stopped,” Narges says.

She thinks learning Arabic is a first step. The language will give her firsthand access to the Koran and hadith, secondhand interpretations of the sacred text. With this access, she can challenge damaging misinterpretations that rob Muslim women of the basic human rights that Narges considers to be God-given. “Since women have not been involved in the interpretation of the Koran, they have remained voiceless, beaten, with their rights denied,” she explains. “But the Koran is actually good to women. If I know Arabic, I can explain to parents how the Koran actually tells us to educate our girls.”