Maryam is currently studying International Relations at Carleton University in Ottawa. Previously, she was the only female translator for the NATO Provincial Reconstruction Team in Kandahar. She recently presented at the annual Symposium for Canadian Women for Women in Afghanistan, and shared the full impact of KIMSâ€™ help here.
What was your life like before you started attending the ACCC?
During the Taliban regime, I was a girl who was going to forests to collect wood in order to make sure that we had enough wood for fire so our mother could cook for us. I was also bringing water since we didnâ€™t have any water inside of our houses. I never ever thought that one day I would get an education. Everything seemed hopeless and life was like in prison.
Why did you decide to pursue higher education, despite the risks?â€¨
We have been victim of war and violence for more than three decades. Every Afghan is tired of this violence, war and destruction. The main reason of this ongoing war and violence in Afghanistan is illiteracy. Education is the only key to the success and through education we can bring peace to our country and work together with the support of International Community to reconstruct Afghanistan and remove the roots of terrorism in Afghanistan and never let our younger generation to become once again the victim of violence, or anyone to take advantage of us like Taliban didâ€¦
What class or teacher at the ACCC made the biggest difference in your life?
English and computer classes made huge difference in my life. I have accomplished a lot in past three years in Afghanistan and in Canada and itâ€™s all because of Afghan Canadian Community Center. If today, I am student of Political Science at Carleton University and pursing my undergraduate in International Relations and I have the ability to write my assignments in English, understand my lecture and speak in English with my professors. Itâ€™s all again because of ACCC. ACCC was the first place where I learned my English and Computer skills.
What do you think makes the ACCC different from other programs in Afghanistan?
The ACCC is the only place for Kandahari girls where they are provided best environment, best discipline, culturally most appropriate and they can get life skills in English, Management and Computer studies.
Students are enabled to get jobs with different International and local organization and support their family economically. This also brings a positive change in life of Kandahar women and they become breadwinner for the family and gain more respect.
How did Internet access, the computer lab, or access to the resource library impact your life or your studies?
In Afghanistan our schools donâ€™t have enough materials that student can benefit from or solve their problems while they are in school. They always struggle a lot getting more information about their favorite subjects. So having access to internet and library at ACCC is very useful and helped students to take out books or even read it inside the center to find the answer for their questions. It has really positive impact on our knowledge on the other side of the world too. Through these facilities we can get better information about the world.
What employment positions have you held since studying at the ACCC?
I worked as Protection Clerk for UNHCR, Legal Translator for International Legal Foundation, Only female interpreter with the Canadian Forces in Kandahar, Gender Advisor for US State Department in Kandahar. I was the breadwinner for my family at that time and currently I have been training the Canadian troops across Canada plus I worked as translator with Canadian Immigration in Ottawa.
What educational programs would you like to complete in the future?
I have dream of obtaining my PHD in International Relations one day and to become a diplomat in the future.
Do you plan to return to Afghanistan? If so, what sort of work would you like to do when you return?
Itâ€™s my main goal to return to Afghanistan and serve my country as minister of Foreign Affairs but the security situation in Afghanistan will decide that for me.
Are there any other messages you would like to share?
ACCC has brought a huge change in life of Kandahar women. Itâ€™s the only institution where girls have full access to English language, computer, management and other online courses. To continue to help Kandahar women it would be the place where International donor money can make a huge change in life of Afghan women and their families.