Mainstream news coverage of Afghanistan tends to be discouraging, especially in the way of gender equality, but with the help of the Nooristan Foundation, the future of Afghan women is not as bleak as it may appear. Founded in 1999 by Dr. Nadir Atash, the Nooristan Foundation is an all-volunteer Section 501 (c)(3) charity working to positively impact the lives of Afghans in need.
Afghanistan remains one of the poorest and least secure nations in the world but the Nooristan Foundation takes a grassroots approach to its work, working with communities and organizations in Afghanistan to go beyond humanitarian aid and provide Afghans with the skills they need to improve economically.
Dr. Atash, who was educated in the US, founded the foundation after learning that there were very few primary schools in the Nooristan province of Afghanistan. Under the director of Dr. Atash, the Nooristan Foundation focused on building rural roads, installing hydro-electric generating capacity, helping schools and providing water for remote Nooristani villages. As of 2008, Dr. Atash is retired from active participation with the foundation. Mrs. Marie Kux now serves as president.
Afghan women are at the receiving end of the Nooristan Foundation’s programs. The foundation’s “New Beginnings” program provided job training and literacy classes for refugee women. Taliban activity has greatly limited access to education for girls and young women but the foundation’s efforts do just the opposite-building primary schools and providing professional education training for 30 teachers in a girls school in Kandahar.
Another recipient of the foundation’s resources are Afghan midwives. Given Afghanistan’s high maternal mortality rate (one in every eleven mothers risks death), midwife training is a priority. After completing a two-year training program for 80 midwives in Takhar, the Nooristan Foundation is working to set up another program to train midwives, probably in Logar province.
Great progress continues to be made for women and girls in Afghanistan. In the past decade, the number of girls enrolled in primary school from almost none to three million, with many going on to pursue university educations. The life expectancy for women has risen from 44 years to 62 years. Women also serve in public office but there is still work to be done.
Last month, a fundraiser for the foundation titled an “Evening of Hope” was hosted at the French Ambassador’s Residence in Washington, DC to raise money for the vital programs the Nooristan Foundation carries out.
To learn more about the Nooristan Foundation or to make a contribution, visit http://www.nooristanfoundation.org/index.php/nor_home/.