Among the challenges Barakat Afghanistan faces is the search for female role models for our students. In a country where women are often prohibited from traveling much outside their own homes and discouraged from pursuing an education, we look for women who reinforce both local cultural beliefs and empowerment for women. Recently, we found one such woman, whose commitment to women’s health in her country is inspiring a new generation. Pashtoon Azfar has become a champion for her native country Afghanistan to improve the dilapidated health care system and decrease the death rate for women during pregnancy in and child-birth, which, at 1,600 maternal deaths out of every at 1,600/100,000 births, is the 2nd second highest in the world.
During Pashtoon’s lifetime, the culture of war had destroyed the health care and mid–wife system in Afghanistan. Professionals had fled the country, and continuing education halted.
Now she directs Afghanistan’s Institute of Health Sciences and is working with foreign government aid and NGOs help to improve the staggering statistics. Health care could provide a big window for the next generation of educated women in Afghanistan to bring the status of Afghan health care back to where it was in the past. Azfar is the role model for future Afghani women leaders, and the women coming out of Barakat schools don’t have to look far to find a hero.
To be able to look beyond the often bleak and war-ridden situation and find the positives of present-day Afghanistan is difficult but is easy as looking to Pashtoon Azfar.
To read more about Azfar, check out the New York Times article profiling her work: