This story is part of Counterpart’s 16 Days of Activism series. This year’s global theme is “Invest to Prevent Violence Against Women and Girls.” At Counterpart, our women’s empowerment team partners year-round with women leaders around the world, ensuring they have the training, means, and support to break cycles of violence and discrimination, and give them a voice within their communities. During the 16 Days Campaign, we will be sharing just a few of their incredible stories.
Masoumeh Bashandeh, a former mathematics and physics teacher in the city of Qala-e-Naw, the capital of Badghis province in western Afghanistan, is currently experiencing life under Taliban rule for the second time.
Bashandeh loved being a teacher, instructing students at the Qala-e-Naw Girls’ High School. However, when the Taliban came into power in August 2021, the regime prohibited women from working or obtaining an education, and Bashandeh was forced to leave her job. Overnight, thousands of young girls and women across Afghanistan were once again subjected to gender persecution and deprived of a formal education.
She continued to receive her salary as a teacher for a while at home, but after several months, the Ministry of Education, under the Taliban’s supervision, terminated her position and stopped paying her salary. She and her family of seven were left without any means of income.
Although her family expressed concern about her continuing as a teacher, Bashandeh knew it was important to continue giving hope to her young female students. She rolled up her sleeves and decided to create a home-based school for girls deprived of education. She could support these girls, who had just learned the meaning of education, by keeping the seeds of hope alive within them.
She started her classes with great fear, initially signing up only twelve students. Her classes quickly gained in popularity, and after a short time grew from one class into a full educational center serving more than 50 students. Most of the students in her center do not pay for their education; they often come from extremely poor families who cannot even afford bread. But they have hopes and dreams as vast and high as the Pamir Mountains.
Bashandeh is pleased that—through education—she can keep aspirations alive in the minds and hearts of these young girls. She hopes to one day witness the reopening of schools, universities, and other educational institutions for Afghan girls, and she is working hard to support the next generation of female scholars until that dream becomes a reality.