Event Report: An Evening in Vermont

This August, roughly two years after the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan, Central Asia Institute hosted an intimate discussion on the future of Afghan women and girls. Situated at the Flynn Theater in Burlington, Vermont, the panel featured three incredible women, and drew an audience of more than 100. As the state with the highest number of Afghan refugees per capita, the group of Vermonters and Afghan Vermonters remained deeply engaged throughout the evening.

The event kicked off with a review of scenes from the Frontline docuseries “America and the Taliban,” with live commentary from our guest panelist, Frontline producer Marcela Gaviria. Sharing her insights from more than two decades reporting on Afghanistan, she set the scene for a deep discussion on how women and girls are faring under current restrictions.

Moderated by Vermont Public Radio’s Mikaela Lefrak, the panel discussion began with a focus on panelist Judge Anisa Rasooli, who had only recently arrived in Vermont. Judge Rasooli has been called the RBG of Afghanistan due to her accomplishment of being the first woman appointed to the Afghan Supreme Court.

Panelists from event in Vermont

The panel was rounded out by the third and final panelist, Sediqa Fahimi. Having grown up in a rural village of Afghanistan and not received any formal schooling until the age of 9, Sediqa seized the opportunities availed in the 2000s. She went on to become a Fulbright scholar, earn a Masters, and started her own nonprofit. Since evacuating Afghanistan in 2021, she has continued her important work in the nonprofit sector.

While Central Asia Institute program teams and partners are engaged in crucial work to move the needle on education and girls’ empowerment in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Tajikistan, our communications and development teams are honored to be able to keep the conversation moving beyond borders. As coverage of Afghanistan inevitably wanes after this two-year anniversary mark, we hope to continue shining a light on the girls and women in this region who are counting on the world to pay attention.

Our next event is coming up in Chicago on October 25th. This event will be both in person and virtual, so be sure to subscribe to our newsletter for the full announcement!

And, we want to hear from you! Is there an event in your hometown that CAI should be a part of? Would you attend a CAI event? Let us know in the comments or by reaching out to info@centralasiainstitute.org

Sulhiya’s Story - Tajikistan

Growing up in the Gorno Badakhshan region of Tajikistan, Sulhiya was known her for compassion and outgoing personality. When she was looking for direction after graduating in 2007, her family encouraged her to pursue teaching, which was a natural fit for her skillset.

Sulhiya immediately developed a deep connection with her students and picked up on a subtle trend among many of them: She noticed that students were embarrassed about their uniforms, which had become tattered with overuse. She also knew that she could help.

Sulhiya - teacher in Tajikistan

Sulhiya was an experienced tailor with a passion for sewing. As a teenager, she would often mend clothes for herself, her family, and friends.

Although she had the desire to help, and the necessary skills, Sulhiya struggled to figure out how she could focus on sewing uniforms while also managing a demanding teaching schedule. Because she was vocal about her vision, she was soon connected to Central Asia Institute-Tajikistan (CAIT). When she attended their first Business Literacy training, all the pieces began to fall into place. The CAIT program provided Sulhiya with the necessary equipment to get started, and the business acumen to see it to fruition.

Energized by her initial progress, Sulhiya worked with CAIT to apply for and attend further training through Accelerate Prosperity in Dushanbe.

Sulhiya’s sewing projects

Today, Sulhiya owns a sewing workshop in Porshinev village of Shugnan District. Her main outputs were initially traditional dresses. However, during the past few years she was working alongside CAIT she expanded her services to include producing high-quality and long-lasting school uniforms helping the children she used to teach.

She is incredibly grateful for her education in entrepreneurship and continues to use the skills she learnt to help her business grow and benefit her community. When asked about her next steps Sulhiya is excited to start formally branding her business, learn digital marketing, and create more jobs for women and girls.



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