At the Institute, we hear the inspiring life stories of Afghan women who survived being stripped of their civil and basic rights. They are risking their lives and studying underground to obtain an education and go on to own their own business. They also are defying the odds and sending their daughters to school to economically empower their families and communities. These women do so despite great atrocities against them. 

For instance, an article in the New York Times last month detailed the story of a 22-year-old Afghan mother who was killed for giving birth to yet another girl, her third in a row. In December, also in Afghanistan, four gunmen broke into a house and threw acid on family members of a female who had rejected one of the gunman’s marriage proposal. “Girls are looked down upon in Afghanistan,” Manizha Naderi, executive director of Women for Afghan Women, told the NY Times.

Human rights activist and Afghan Women’s Network member Wazhma Frogh told the Daily Beast, “For male politicians in this country, this [burning of the Quran] was a big opportunity to engage more public support by condemning the Americans, while for women it was the chaotic situation that mattered, because women are more threatened in such circumstances.” IEEW experienced this first-hand as our PEACE THROUGH BUSINESS® students were forced to cancel business and financial management classes because of the rioting.

Yet despite the violence and biases, a recent study by Agence France-Presse showed that the number of girls receiving an education in Afghanistan has risen from 5,000 in 2001 to 2.5 million.  "We are also part of this land and they cannot ignore us," Shukria Barakzai, a legislator from Kabul in the lower house of parliament told AFP. "Today is not Afghanistan of 1996, this is 2012 Afghanistan."

As we celebrate National Women’s History month this March, take a moment to reflect back on the past 100 years of women’s struggles and triumphs in this country. Our success today is built on the sacrifices of great women in U.S. history.  Our intention is to pay forward the opportunities we’ve been given and support the great women of Afghanistan in their courageous and uphill fight to do the same for their country. By doing so, they will change their lives, their daughters’ lives, and the lives of other Afghan women for generations to come.

Neese is the CEO and founder of the Institute for Economic Empowerment of Women.