Stories from Afghanistan

Over 900 civil servants in Kabul, Afghanistan, have participated in IMAGINE’S Empowerment Workshop or the Empowerment Life Coaching Program. The results have been outstanding.

The women who participated were all experiencing some or many of these issues: trauma, violence, abuse, hopelessness, no vision, no faith in themselves, inability to function, stress, confusion, insecurity, lack of confidence, powerlessness, feelings of being stuck, helpless, poor, disadvantaged. After the IMAGINE Program much of this suffering was alleviated or altogether healed. The following stories give a glimpse of the effect of the work.

Fawzia is a thirty-five year old young woman who is the mother of ten children living in Paktia, the most remote region of Afghanistan where the Taliban is strongly supported. She came to the training completely covered with only her eyes to be seen. She was sick and aching in every part of her body. Fawzia had been elected as a provincial council member and she came to gain self-esteem so that she could fulfill her role. When she arrived she had no hope and she was terrified of everything including her husband.

During the training she got in touch with her emotions and cried a lot, releasing years of pent up pain caused by abuse. At the end of the training she decided to stay in Kabul and go through the entire training a second time. It was during the second training that she uncovered her face for the first time. As she removed her veil she told the group that she wanted to continue her education. She made a promise that she would register for college no matter what. She said that she was no longer afraid because during the trainings she had created a clear vision for her life and she had understood that the choice about the kind of life she wanted to lead was in her hands. She left Kabul radiant and confidant. Several months later Fawzia was elected to create a program for the education of girls in Afghanistan. She will monitor this one-year program through a grant given by the Women’s Commission for Refugee Women and Children in New York.

Naffissa is twenty-nine year’s old and the single mother of one son. She works as a secretary in the Ministry of Women’s Affairs. Her husband left her alone in Kabul in order to go earn money in Pakistan. She had not been paid for her work for six consecutive months. She had no money to pay her rent and was deeply depressed. Nafissa had lost hope and she could barely get out of bed. During the time she was going through the Empowerment Life Coaching her landlord threatened to evict Nafissa if she didn’t pay her rent. She had three days to move and no money and no place to go. During the next series of coaching sessions Nafissa used the empowerment tools to find a place to live, to get help moving, and to get funding from her Ministry for a heater for her new house. She began to shift from despair to hope. She went through the coaching program again and registered in an advanced English course. She updated her resume and begun looking for a new job. Within a month she had applied for and received a six thousand dollar scholarship from New York to attend a one-month leadership course. Nafissa is shaping her future with hope and excitement: dressing each day with care and self-respect; improving her English and communicating with ease; and dreaming big dreams.

Farida, mother of four children from Baghlan province was deeply depressed when she attended our training. Her husband had married for the fourth time and she hated it. He threatened her if she continued to create scenes about his marriage that he was going to stop her from seeing her children. After empowerment coaching and training, Farida found a job as a director of women with the Agha Kahn Foundation in Baghlan. She is now charting her way, saving money and thinking of moving out from her husband and getting a home of her own.

Iran Gyl, a 35 year-old woman, felt invisible at her work and afraid to talk to her boss about the problems that women faced in the Ministry of Commerce. She was frustrated at work and felt that no one ever listened to her. After the training, Iran Gyl gained so much confidence that she went to the Minister’s office by herself five times and presented a proposal that she thought would work. She was no longer afraid and began sharing all the information from the empowerment work with her colleagues.

Aziza, 45 years old and the first woman General, was deeply depressed because she worked with men and was continuously afraid of sabotage and corruption. Her husband had left her with the children for another women, had beat and abused her, and left her penniless. She had worked her way up to becoming a General, but now the depression had returned and she did not know how to handle power.

After the Empowerment Workshop, Aziza’s power was taken away. Exactly what she feared most happened. The Ministry of Interior had stopped her from any decision-making. Now Aziza was faced with discrimination, assault, and betrayal. However, she was able to confront the government and fight for her position. She did not back off like she had done before in her life.

There are hundreds of examples, similar to these, of women who have taken the Empowerment Workshop or Life Coaching Program. Most assumed responsibility for their lives, adopted new and positive  behaviors, and made the essential first steps towards change.

Shqipe Malushi

First, I would like to express my sincere gratitude to Shqipe Malushi for being so kind as to coach me in empowerment. I would like to thank Mr. David Gershon and Ms. Gail Straub for developing such a wonderful coaching program and book. This coaching brought lots of changes in my life. It made me hopeful. It allowed me to start living again with hopes, dreams, and joy. This is amazing.

Negative beliefs and feelings before Empowerment Coaching:


And lots more negative beliefs

Because I was suffering from losing my father, losing a job I loved, from my life in the past, from missing the opportunity to continue my studies, and suffering from great violence against women in my country, I had lost all my hope.

After Empowerment Coaching:

At first I didn’t know if this coaching would be very effective. I just wanted to keep myself busy with something new. But after a few sessions, I noticed something marvelous. I started feeling confidence, power, and happiness coming back into my life. Hope started growing in my heart. I started loving my self and loving life. For the first time I realized how beautiful life is. I decided to wake up, to go further, to reach my goals, and to make my dream come true. In my coaching sessions I created a vision, mission, and values. I believe it and I will do it.

What I Would Like to Do Now

I would like to attend the Empowerment Institute and be a certified coach so I can coach the women in my country. I am currently working with several projects with women civil servants and I would like to do this coaching with them. I have already started to practice with my family, both my sisters and my mother. The results are amazing.

Shaima Khinjani

Note: Shaima attended the Empowerment Institute and is now living her dream of transforming the lives of Afghan women.

Partner Organizations


Marefat High School and Marefat Civic Capacity Building Organization



Abantu for Development Ghana

Gender Center for Empowering Development (GenCED)

Mentoring Women Ghana

Solidaridad West Africa


Sanja Women’s Group

ESVAK Community Development



Women’s Inspiration Center

Women Initiative for Sustainable Environment (WISE)

Girls Voices Intitiative


Duhozanye Asscoiation

South Africa:



Kolkata Sanved

Saheli HIV/AIDS Karyakarta Sangh

Vikalp Sansthan

MENA Region


Sting Consultancy


Queen Rania Award for Excellence in Education

Tmakeen Association




High Atlas Foundation


Jasmine Foundation

Finding Your Inner Self


“All of Me.”
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