A young Afghan activist champions the empowerment of girls and women

Caux Scholars Program 2017

Caux Scholars Program 2017


Four years ago, she was the first girl to ride a bicycle in her neighborhood, in Kabul. Now, she is a 21-year-old championing the empowerment of young girls in Afghanistan. Sahar Fetrat was one of 20 participants in this year’s Caux Scholars Program (CSP), which ran for four weeks during the Caux Forum. CSP is an intensive training course on conflict analysis, transformation and resolution which aims to equip participants for resolving conflicts in their communities.

Sahar is not only a student. She is also a journalist and the founder of a documentary film company. She defines herself as an activist for women’s rights who believes in the power of storytelling. Most of her work involves advocacy and awareness about social issues affecting women, using videos to educate people in her country.

Like most Afghan girls, she experienced sexism, discrimination and harassment when she was young. ‘My family always felt concerned about women’s rights. My sister always told me about how women should claim their existence and go to places they were not allowed to go to,’ Sahar told me.

A big part of her inspiration also comes from her mother. ‘She was a feminist without knowing it. She taught us equality and never preferred our brother over us. She supported me in her limited way,’ Sahar explains.

She was 14 when she discovered the idea of feminism. She felt unequal that only boys could talk in front of the class, so she challenged it. ‘The teacher called me an angry feminist. I went to find the meaning of it and I loved the idea of being a feminist,’ Sahar says.

Every time she held a camera, she felt empowered to confront the men who would harass her by saying: ‘You will see yourself on the TV.` She has sparked debate and discussion among the media over the issue of women being harassed on the streets in their everyday life in Afghanistan.

That was how she was inspired to start her own production company. It aims to provide a safe platform for women to express their issues and get empowered through learning new technical filming skills that are usually reserved for men.

She is trying to break the stereotype that people who live outside the West don’t know about feminism. ‘I feel the responsibility to explain to people what feminism means to me, but I also feel that it’s time for people to educate themselves about it,’ Sahar says. 

‘People always claim that our biggest problem is being oppressed by the burqa. But Afghan women’s problem is not the burqa; our freedom is not measured by how long our skirts are. The challenges that we have are just about claiming existence,’ she adds.

Sahar hopes to spread her message and inspire other participants of the Caux Scholars Program to take action in creating a ‘global sisterhood network’ where girls can support each other. ‘At first when I started riding a bicycle in Kabul, people harassed me. But now girls ride bicycles with confidence. That’s a lot of hope,’ she says. ‘I feel that there is a strength. I believe in female power; the future will be better for young women,’ she concludes.


Featured Story

related stories

Caux Palace view night

Climate and the economy in the post-COVID world

As pandemic-related lockdowns and travel restrictions slowly begin to ease and a return to normal life seems nearer at hand, we are at a critical juncture as to how we choose to act towards our enviro...

Nazarene Mannie

My Learning Story: Nazrene Mannie

Nazrene Mannie is the Executive Director of the Global Apprenticeship Network (GAN) and talks about her learning experiences. Our interview series 'My Learning Story’ hopes to become a global learning...

Daniel Clements

From personal change to conference leadership: Daniel Clements

Daniel Clements, the coordinator for this year’s Creative Leadership conference, would not have become involved with Initiatives of Change Switzerand without his father, who recommended that he attend...

COVID 19 slider EN square

The Caux Forum is going online!

Our team together with the international IofC Network is working hard to give you an online 2020 Caux Forum, trying to get you as close as possible to the “Caux experience”. Although we will not be ab...

COVID 19 slider EN final

COVID-19 : The Caux Forum 2020 is being transformed

In light of the global health crisis surrounding coronavirus, as well as its organizational and financial implications, the Council of Initiatives of Change Switzerland has decided to adapt the Caux F...


Job offers for the Caux Forum 2020

For the Caux Forum 2020 IofC Switzerland is looking for a Dining-room Manager, a Cash Desk Manager, a Buffet Manager, an Allocation Manager and a Support Team Manager....

Open House Day group with kids

Internship: Open House Day & Project Support (40%)

IofC Switzerland is looking for an intern who will be in charge of the Open House Day on 5 July 2020. The intern will also support IofC's projects in the area of trustbuilding, in particular with rega...

Caux Palace, credit: Paula Mariane

3 Job Offers: Dining-Room Assistant / Technical Services Assistant / Reception Desk Assistant

You would like to work in an inspring place with people from all over the world? IofC Switzerland is looking for a Reception Desk Assistant, a Technical Services Assistant and a Dining-room Assistant...

Michael Akampa

Making investment work for the people

The Caux Dialogue on Land and Security (CDLS) in 2017 was a ‘turning point’ for sustainable investment professional, Micheál Akampa, who was invited to speak at its Invest in Peace conference. ‘I met ...

CDLS 2019 Tom Duncan

Empowering communities to restore mangroves

Tom Duncan is CEO of Earthbanc and passionate about problem solving and strategic systems thinking, primarily in regenerative economics, green finance and financial technology, as a means of restoring...

Nhat Vhuong

Plucking water from the air

Webmarketing consultant and social entrepreneur Nhat Vhuong is passionate about tackling water scarcity. A Vietnamese refugee, who grew up in Switzerland, he worked in Japan for eight years before ret...

Meghalaya CDLS 2019 Conrad Sangma

Meghalaya’s lighthouses of sustainable development

‘Our goal in Meghalaya is to build a low-carbon economy through complete involvement and ownership of communities,’ Conrad Sangma, the Chief Minister of Meghalaya, told the opening session of the Caux...

CDLS 2019 Chau Duncan

Bridging the financial divides

Chau Tang Duncan is applying over 20 years’ experience in banking, trade and commercial diplomacy to improving the financial access of disadvantaged communities. ...

Aibanshngain Swer CDLS 2019

Protecting Meghalaya’s water sources

Some billion people rely on water sourced in the hills of Meghalaya, in North East India. One of those responsible for water conservation in the State, Aibanshngain Swer, took part in the Summer Acade...

Hartmut Behrend Mali

Combatting climate change in Mali

Taking part in the Caux Dialogue on Land and Security (CDLS) 2014 encouraged  German climatologist Hartmut Behrend to move out of the bubble of well-intentioned international activism to work on the g...

related events

Opening Ceremony 2018 audience 28 June 2018

Opening Ceremony 2018

Caux Scholars 2019 Dates coming up soon

Caux Scholars Program

opening ceremony 26 June 2019

Opening Ceremony