I was the director of the Afghan Women’s Network (AWN), which includes more than 91 women’s organizations and 5,000 individuals. Working with civil society organizations, government, and UN agencies, I have brought together thousands of voices to raise the visibility of women in Afghanistan through advocacy and networking initiatives.
I have organized consultations across the country to enhance women’s ability to advocate for their participation in events that will shape the new Afghanistan, such as the 2010 National Peace Consultative Jirga, the 2010 Kabul International Conference, the 2011 Bonn Conference, the 2011 Loya Jirga, 2012 Tokyo Conference, and the formation of the High Peace Council.
I previously served as a gender coordinator for the UN Development Programme and advocated successfully for the creation of a department within the Ministry of Interior to ensure that gender is considered in every policy decision. I organized the first trainings for senior ministry officials on UN Security Council Resolution 1325, which requires that women be fully involved in every part of a peace process, and I led a six-week course for more than 300 police officers on ending violence against women.
I received my bachelor’s degree in business administration from Preston University in Pakistan and am certified to train others using The Institute for Inclusive Security’s Women Waging Peace Curriculum. I received a national award in 2010 acknowledging AWN’s critical role in the peace process and received the Presidential Medal for my participation in the National Peace Consultative Jirga.
I currently study International Human Rights Law at the University of York, UK, and I have engaged myself with SistaEnable, because I believe in the global impact of the SistaEnable (=sustaineable) ways.
Shamila Kohestani is a delightful young woman who brings her story of life as a young woman under Taliban rule, her courageous effort to follow her passion to play a forbidden sport, her journey to pursue a college degree after missing six pivotal years of education during the Taliban, and her goal to promote sports opportunities for women and to educate, inform and motivate overall change for the women, in Afghanistan and throughout the world, who continue to endure extreme oppression.
Ten years ago Shamila was beaten by the Taliban, deprived of any education from age 8 to 13, and confined to her home in Kabul. Shortly after the Taliban were removed from power, she began to play soccer.
Her soccer involvement and position as the captain of the first Women’s Afghan National Soccer Team, led to receiving the Arthur Ashe Courage Award at the 2006 ESPY Awards in Los Angeles. During that trip to the U.S., she had the opportunity to attend the Julie Foudy Sports Leadership program in New Jersey.
While at the program, she met a teacher from Blair Academy who convinced the school to provide a one year scholarship to Blair, a leading boarding school in New Jersey. From Blair, through the help of the Afghan Girls Financial Assistance Fund, Shamila was awarded a four year scholarship to Drew University. While at Drew, she continued to play soccer and was named to the Dean’s list.
She graduated from Drew University in May 2012 with a degree in Political Science and is currently working as a program assistant at the International Republican Institute in Washington, D.C. and as a speaker on women’s issues globally and the life changing effect the opportunity to play sports can provide.