Rising from the Ashes to Support Victims of Gender-Based Violence

December 7, 2023

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.

Huma Muhammadi has dedicated her life to improving the lives of women in Afghanistan. For the past 30 years, she has been providing education and support to those who needed it the most despite opposition. 

in 1993, Muhammadi established a school in Panjshir to educate girls who had previously been denied an education. Meanwhile, she earned her degree in pharmacy and worked in a pharmacy at a clinic. Through her work there, she had the opportunity to connect with many women who shared with her their concerns of gender-based violence. She felt a call to address them. 

Huma Muhammadi has dedicated her life to improving the lives of women in Afghanistan.

In 2001, Muhammadi successfully ran for a position on the provincial council and represented her community for five years—despite facing the obstacles of being not only a woman, but a woman from a military family. Her rivals and competitors tried to stop her—even going so far as to threaten her with being stoned—but she continued to serve while wearing a burqa to protect her identity and keep her safe.  

Going door to door in Panjshir, she met local women and contributed to the development and support of women’s role in society. She fought to ensure that women were included in social and political meetings and decision making. When she was denied the opportunity to run for parliament, she decided instead to launch her own platform. In 2005, she established an association of women; in 2010, it became the Amo Educational and Relief Services Organization. Since its inception, her organization has provided awareness and education on women’s rights to more than 10,000 women.  

Then came the day that would test her resilience like never before. With the takeover of Afghanistan by the Taliban in August 2021, fighting broke out in Panjshir and her organization was burned to the ground. In one fell swoop, everything she had worked tirelessly to build was destroyed, all documents were lost, and two of her staff members were injured.   

The loss was devastating, but she refused to be defeated. Muhammadi began the difficult journey of rebuilding her organization from the ground up, starting from a rented room in a dental clinic. She now provides vocational training and support to vulnerable women, GBV victims, and professionals being denied employment and education opportunities. Her motivation is simple but powerful: to make life better for the marginalized and oppressed who need support the most. 

The story of Muhammadi, the Afghan woman who refused to be silenced by violence and destruction, has become a symbol of hope and strength in her community. She has demonstrated that even in the most challenging of circumstances, it is possible to rise and rebuild. As she says, “although my journey was not without its hardships, having an unwavering commitment to my cause, my community, and the women I served allowed me to emerge from the ashes stronger than ever.” Her story inspires and empowers others facing similar challenges, and she hopes that international organizations will join the fight in support of Afghan women.