Shamila Kohestani is a trailblazer. In 2006 she became captain of the first Women’s Afghan National Soccer Team. She enrolled at Drew University in 2008 as the first scholarship recipient of the Afghan Girls Financial Assistance Fund (AGFAF). Shamila studied political science and women’s studies and graduated from Drew in 2012. Today there are 25 other girls like Shamila studying in the U.S. through AGFAF.
“AGFAF understands the importance and value of education in building peace,” Kohestani said. “It is clear that the work of AGFAF is critical in Afghanistan, as it provides women with an opportunity to engage in and contribute to society.”
Growing up under Taliban rule, Shamila was beaten, deprived of any education, and confined to her home in Kabul. The path for her cleared after the Taliban was deposed. Shamila picked up soccer and received the Arthur Ashe Courage Award at the 2006 ESPY Awards in Los Angeles. While attending a Sports Leadership program in New Jersey on that same trip to the U.S., Shamila also caught the attention of a teacher at Blair Academy who convinced the school to provide her a one-year scholarship.
There, again, she impressed, this time catching the eye of Leo Motiuk, whose son attended Blair with Shamila. Motiuk did not have a hard time convincing Drew University to grant Shamila a scholarship, and thereby established AGFAF. At Drew, Shamila played soccer, made the Dean’s list and worked to give back to her home country.
“It was with the help of AGFAF that I received a scholarship from Drew University to pursue higher education, which I greatly appreciate. Without the help of AGFAF and Drew, I would not be where I’m today,” Kohestani said.
Shamila has served a volunteer counselor at leadership camps across the U.S. and speaks to children of all ages about her story about of empowerment through education and her commitment to improving the educational conditions for children in her native Afghanistan. Today, Shamila works at the International Republican Institute in Washington D.C., where she lives.
“AGFAF recognizes that education has the power to make not only Afghanistan, but the world a better place,” Kohestani said. “Investing in women’s education in Afghanistan will result in improving women’s lives, health, gender equality, and reducing poverty.” The efforts to build education in Afghanistan continue as CRCC and AGFAF team up to tutor students aspiring to study in the U.S.
AGFAF will receive the Empowerment through Education Award at the Inaugural CRCC Gala on March 31.