Since the Taliban takeover in 2021, women in Afghanistan have been banned from schools and the workforce. They are prisoners of war in their own homes. Female artistic expression has been criminalized. Even well-educated women are now relegated to the home and strictly limited to domestic chores, forced marriages and childbearing. They cannot leave the house without their faces covered and, in many areas, they must have a male chaperone. It is taboo to talk about their feelings and ask questions about their bodies, health or sexuality, let alone seek mental health services. An overwhelming number are struggling with poverty and suicidal thoughts.
This GoFundMe is an opportunity to help me to continue providing a college-level course on Self-Empowerment and Women's Studies for approximately 30 women in Afghanistan ages 18-29 who must keep their identities hidden for their own safety. The class meets online for two hours, three times per week for 3 months per trimester through an underground school. These young women are risking their lives to pursue education and self-expression in a country where both are outlawed. They desperately need support from the outside.
Please read the most recent student testimony:
"I want to extend my heartfelt gratitude for the invaluable lessons and guidance you have provided me through the Self-Empowerment and Feminism class over the past three months. Throughout the course, you opened my eyes to numerous significant topics such as self-acceptance, self-love, and the importance of listening to our inner voices. Your teachings have shown me the significance of not ignoring our emotions, but rather embracing them without judgement or categorization as good or bad. You have taught me to appreciate their existence and to find inner peace and true freedom through their acknowledgement.
Furthermore, your emphasis on nonviolent communication has been transformative. It has enabled me to enhance my relationship with myself and others, fostering understanding, empathy, and compassion in my interactions. Your guidance has empowered me to navigate challenging conversations with grace and seek resolutions that uphold respect and harmony.
I am truly grateful for your dedication, passion, and unwavering belief in the power of self-empowerment and feminism. Your commitment to fostering growth and self-discovery has made a profound impact on my life. I feel empowered, inspired and equipped with the knowledge and tools to navigate life's challenges with confidence.
I am incredibly fortunate to have had the opportunity to learn from you, and I will carry the lessons you have imparted throughout my life. You are truly an exceptional teacher and I am grateful for your support. Thank you for making a positive impact on my learning journey."
-S.R., age 28
This course leads students through an interactive process of creative writing, journaling, reading, lecture and video content on a wide variety of psycho-emotional topics selected and requested by the students, exercises and practices to deepen self-compassion and self-awareness, in-depth group conversation, meditative breathwork, and self-care. It also includes guest instructors in the fields of medicine and women's health, mental health and healing trauma, and women in business and entrepreneurship.
"At last I learned how to find my way back to myself, even in the worst circumstances and it's because of you. I needed someone to talk to who would listen to me. Thank you for being in my life and for this course." -L.A., age 29
$300 SPONSORS 1 STUDENT FOR A FULL TRIMESTER
NO DONATION IS TOO SMALL.
All donations are tax-deductible.
This three-month course is offered free of charge and has received an overwhelmingly positive response. The first two trimesters, which concluded in late August 2023, led to measurable improvement in knowledge of women’s studies, self-expression, self-compassion, confidence and optimism. They have also led to a variety of life-changing and liberating student-initiated projects, which I am facilitating and co-developing through hundreds of volunteer hours of my time. These projects include:
- The creation of a play, Diaries of Afghan Women, adapted from student essays written throughout my course of their personal experiences of life under Taliban rule. This piece is now being presented to U.S. audiences and performed by professional actors from neighboring nations, to help amplify the silenced voices of Afghan women and illuminate their experience to the American public, enabling many for the first time to feel seen and heard in the midst of one of the most horrific human rights crises of our time. I am further developing this piece as a studio-recorded radio play for podcast and community radio broadcasting to help bring these voices to more audiences and educate American people on the Afghan crisis in an intimate and humanizing way.
- Organizing art exhibitions in NY and Colorado featuring the work of Afghan female activists to help support and raise funds for these activists’ mission to bring art (which is outlawed) to women and girls in Afghanistan, and who are literally saving lives by providing desperate teens to have a healthy outlet for self-expression.
- Arranging the translation and publishing of a 36-page manifesto written by one of my students, who was inspired through my course, to share an inside view of her personal social and political experience as an Afghan woman to help American citizens to more intimately understand the Afghan crisis for women and girls.
- Facilitating self-empowerment coaching workshops for American coaches and therapists led by Afghan women (selected students) who have navigated impossible circumstances while finding ways to maintain their own mental health and support other women and girls. All proceeds from these workshops go directly to the students to support their projects in advocating women and girls.
These are just a few of the ongoing projects we are pioneering to support this otherwise invisible population of Afghan women who are being silenced and stripped of their most basic human rights.
"It was mind blowing to watch the performance, it was so beautiful it melted my heart to hear our own words spoken out loud in public. I felt so proud, especially when I heard the parts that I wrote, I just wanted to dance. It was early morning and my sister was sleeping next to me. I was so excited that I pinched her hand and said, "Those are MY words!!" It was an amazing moment in my life." -N.H., age 19
"First of all, I want to thank you, Ms. Cara, for everything. When I heard my own words spoken out loud by actors, I felt happy, excited and curious. To be honest, I cried in some parts. I think I felt heartbroken by the surreal experiences we are going through in our lives. Although I was not able to be physically present during the performance, I saw myself among you. I felt like I was no longer in Afghanistan. I felt that I was free. This was the most beautiful feeling in the world for me. Every sentence, every person, and every smile revived a new feeling in me. I am grateful for your efforts with all of my heart." -A.M., age 26
In this Self-Empowerment course, young women in Afghanistan have the opportunity to lift taboos within a safe space. The first and second trimester students candidly reported how transformational it was to have the opportunity to openly dialogue with me, their peers and qualified guest lecturers on critical personal and cultural issues they are otherwise prohibited from even mentioning. They described how vital it was to receive emotional support for the unthinkable trauma they are experiencing on a daily basis and to share their thoughts and feelings in a safe virtual space while building supportive relationships with other women. They reported that they began to feel human again, to feel seen, heard, and relevant for the first time since the U.S. troops pulled out of Afghanistan and the Taliban took over.
"Dear Ms. Cara, thank you for raising our voices so that we are no longer just suffering behind silent walls, but can be heard."-M.A., age 23
"I concluded this course feeling powerful. There is nothing about this course I would change."
-R.S., age 19
Your donations will enable me to continue bringing this vital program to young women in Afghanistan who otherwise have little to no emotional support, community or educational opportunities. During this upcoming trimester, from October 30 - January 26, class will take place online for 2 hours, 3 times per week, plus offering an open-door policy outside of class hours as a support system for students suffering crisis and severe trauma.
"When I am dealing with problems in my life, I tell myself not to worry, Ms. Cara will help. In the first days of the course, I felt so ashamed to ask questions and speak my ideas, but Cara said that I should not be ashamed. She encouraged me to share my problems and she helped me to solve them. Cara approached our class in an easy, friendly way so that no one felt weird about sharing. It was beautiful and holy. After taking this course, I know that I am free, I am strong, I am a woman.♥️" -R.A., age 22
Please help me to offer and sustain this work for Afghan women and girls, a population in desperate need and deeply deserving of support and visibility. Together we can advocate for these intelligent, ambitious and talented young women who are daring to dream of a brighter future and to secure their basic human rights under the brutal Taliban rule. Together, we can help them stay committed to their vision and feel validated in their optimism for building a better future that will enable them to bring their extraordinary gifts to the world. With your help, the voices, survival, morale and immeasurable potential of Afghan women will be raised.
$300 SPONSORS 1 STUDENT FOR A FULL TRIMESTER
NO DONATION IS TOO SMALL.
All donations are tax-deductible.
"Here in our homeland, we are removed from all aspects of social life. Even though you have not seen our faces, you are working very hard to amplify our voices. One of the best achievements of this year is knowing you, Ms. Cara." -K.N., age 20
I sincerely appreciate your support. Below are more testimonials and reviews from students, kept anonymous to protect their identities:
"Ms. Cara is the best teacher that I have had. The best part of this course was learning to feel our emotions. I am concluding this course feeling more empowered, encouraged, expectant and appreciative. I am able to feel better about myself and think positive." -H.N., age 27
"This course really changed me. I found a new version of myself and built new friendships. This class exceeded my expectations. It was one of the most beautiful, amazing and exciting courses that I have participated in." -M.N., age 25
"I learned how to value myself and that no one is more important than me, even with my imperfections. It was a wonderful course, thank you dear Cara." -J.R., age 21
"In this course we were very interactive and felt very close to each other and our instructor. The best part of the experience was that I was able to present the questions in my heart for the first time, without any fear. Our teacher became like a friend to us, allowing us to feel free. I learned how to speak out against misogyny and not give up on breaking taboos in my society. This course was much better than I expected." -D.Y., age 18
"This course helped me to build new relationships, and solve problems. The instructor encouraged us to ask questions. The assignments, topics, readings and activities helped me to expand my mind and knowledge." -Y.N., age 27
“When I realized this course was ending, I was filled with sadness, because in this class I could express and exercise my freedom of speech without any fear. I could ask any kind of question. I could find the answers and increase my knowledge. I could learn all the things that I wanted to learn. I learned that as a woman we should fight for our rights and express our feelings without any fear. I also learned about strong women that have fought for women's rights. I am really proud of these women and hope that one day I can fight for my rights and the rights of all women too. It has been wonderful for me." -L.M., age 24
"Knowing you is the best thing that has happened to my life this year." -N.S., age 20
"Ms. Cara established a good relationship with all of us, allowing us to feel comfortable and freely communicate with each other. Now that the course is ending, we will continue to stay in touch with each other. Now that we have found each other, having such intimacy and trust between us is really important. Most of all, I learned to have self-confidence and defend my rights and those of my peers. The only thing I would change is to increase the duration of the course." -F.S., age 24
"Every day my instructor encouraged me to ask questions and be as interactive as I could. I explored many topics such as: What is feminism? What is the position of women in today's patriarchal world? What are solutions for all these problems? I learned that I can share my feelings in a group of people and encourage others to do the same. This was my first experience in a women's empowerment course. I felt that every day I learned something new. This really encouraged me to be present for all days of this course. The experience was amazing, it was beyond my expectations. This is my view as a new student in Feminism." -T.S., age 22
"The way our teacher engaged with us was absolutely great. All content was beneficial, especially when Ms. Cara herself elaborated and presented the topics. All topics on feminism were extremely interesting and informative for me and were very relevant to our current reality. My teacher presented these topics brilliantly, giving generous time to each of us. The only thing I would change about this course is to have longer sessions. For example, instead of one hour sessions, I would prefer one hour and forty minutes." -H.G., age 26
"What I learned and enjoyed most about this course was to rediscover abilities that I have not seen in myself in so long." -A.A., age 27
"Ms. Cara, today Afghan women need your kind of spiritual support so that we can find ourselves, even in living through the worst possible kind of crisis. I am grateful to you as an Afghan girl." -B.S., age 18
"Thank you for standing with Afghan girls and for creating this theater play. I shared it with my family and they were amazed and told me to say thank you for everything." -S.G., age 20
"Dear Teacher, I can never forget you. You always say beautiful words to me like a mother and you always give me energy. Thank you very much, I love you dear Cara." -Y.J., age 22
"I want to thank you, this was my favorite class. I learned many things from you. Thank you for everything. I am blessed to have you." -Z.H., age 21
More about me:
Cara Cruickshank is an educator, community organizer and artistic producer. She is a Brazilian-American who has lived in France, Brazil and the U.S. She is founder, curator and host of Cafe de la Culture, an international popup event that facilitates cultural exchange, immersive arts experiences and intersectional community building and dialogue on important socio-political topics. She is writer, director, and producer of theater for social change, including the multimedia theater production "The Alchemy of Imperfection'', which premiered in Paris and toured throughout the U.S. during the #MeToo movement from 2017-2018, exploring female topics that defy cultural boundaries and culminating in an Actor’s Equity Association production at Laguardia Performing Arts Center in NYC. For the past 15 years, Cara has designed and led empowerment, diversity and gender studies workshops, courses and intensives for marginalized and international communities in the U.S., Brazil, Turkey, and France including programs through NY’s Boards of Cooperative Educational Services, and the University of Balikesir. She has likewise curated and hosted conference panels and round tables nationally with frontline activists on an array of social justice topics such as #MeToo, BLM, Indigenous Rights, the Refugee Crisis, and beyond. In 2022, Cara co-designed and ran Global Village Day Camp, an empowerment and holistic educational summer camp for refugee and immigrant youth in Aurora, Colorado, she made public speaking appearances on women's advocacy at Bard College and the University of Michigan, and was a featured poet at Spoken Word Paris and a spotlight poet opening for World Slam Champions Rachel McKibbens and Dominique Cristina in Denver, Colorado. In February 2023, Cara launched her first semester of the Self-Empowerment and Feminism course for Afghan women through the Afghan Youth Leaders Assembly and aims to continue developing and expanding this important work.