Using Education to Break the Cycle 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.

When Nafisa Kakar was a child growing up in eastern Afghanistan—during the civil war and amidst multiple regime changes—her father was imprisoned and tortured. Over the years, her family was displaced internally multiple times, repeatedly needing to start over and rebuild their lives from scratch. From this difficult childhood, however, Kakar gained strength and realized that she wanted something better for herself and other girls and women in Afghanistan.  

Kakar recalls dreaming of going to medical school as a young child—dreams that she believed were lost when instead she was forced into marriage at age 11. As a child bride she balanced pursuing her own education despite quickly getting pregnant and being responsible for her two small children. Despite these challenges, she was always first in her class and graduated from school—as a mother of three. In the pre-university examination, she earned the highest score among thousands of students nationally and was selected to attend medical school. Sadly, the medical university she always dreamed of was too far from home; she chose instead to study literature, walking to university for two and half hours every day to make this happen. 

Nafisa Kakar has worked in safe houses as a mental health counselor, helping women heal and recover from the trauma of violence.

While continuing to take care of her family, Kakar completed her degree and got a job as a teacher, rising to headmaster and other roles in senior leadership. She earned her master’s degree in Kosovo in psychology—all while raising seven children—and graduated first in her class in 2014.  

Upon earning her master’s degree, Kakar decided to dedicate her career to serving and supporting victims of gender-based violence. She worked in safe houses as a mental health counselor, helping women heal and recover from the trauma of violence. Kakar has visited each district of the eastern Afghanistan, connecting with victims and survivors. She has supported more than 6,000 women over the past 18 years. It has not been easy. She has been targeted and threatened multiple times for her support to the women victims. In addition to serving as a counselor, she continued to educate girls and pursue her activism.  

Kakar’s journey from victim to counselor and supporter is a testament to the resilience of the human spirit. She had survived her traumatic past and emerged as a strong advocate for change, making the community a safer place for those who had endured what she had once suffered.  

With theTaliban now in control, she fears that the ban on girls’ education will mean that her youngest daughter will be forced into marriage like she was. She hopes for a bright future for her daughters and for all the girls of Afghanistan, and she continues to work tirelessly to help others break free from the chains of gender-based violence.