Campus: CSU Nortridge -- September 25, 2002
Northridge Chosen to Help Afghan Government Women
CSUN One of Four U.S. Universities Selected to Provide Specialized Training
Cal State Northridge has been chosen as one of only four universities
in the nation to host a visiting delegation of women officials from
Afghanistan’s new government, providing a specialized two-week
training program to help the women gain the skills needed to begin rebuilding
their war-torn country.
Through its College of Extended Learning, CSUN is scheduled to host
a five-member delegation of Afghan women—none of whom has ever
been to the West before—starting Monday, September 30. The visit
is being arranged by the U.S. State Department and coordinated locally
by the International Visitors Council of Los Angeles.
The five Afghan women—all mid-level government officials in their
20s and 30s—will spend their weekday mornings for two weeks from
September 30 through October 11 improving their English and computer
skills in a CSUN computer lab, mainly learning how to research and write
grant proposals that Afghanistan must prepare to speed much-needed international
“This is a once in a lifetime chance for us to help a nation and
its women who have been so suppressed,” said Simin Bahmanyar,
the College of Extended Learning program development director who will
oversee the women’s instructional program. “If they can
go back with something they learn here and put it to use, then we’ve
accomplished our mission.”
Along with the women coming to Cal State Northridge, another five-member
group will receive training at Metropolitan State College and the University
of Colorado-Denver in Denver, while a four-member group will study at
Kennesaw State University in Atlanta. With other stops before and after,
the 14 women are due to stay a month in the United States.
“This is a terrific opportunity for Cal State Northridge because
we are committed to strengthening our connections with the community,
whether here at home or abroad,” said CSUN President Jolene Koester.
“We already are a very diverse campus with many international
students. But I think these kinds of exchanges tend to teach us as much
as we teach our guests.”
The visit is one sign of the slow but steady reemergence of women in
Afghanistan public life after five years of repression under the now
toppled Taliban regime. During the Taliban era, most Afghan women could
not hold jobs outside the home, were forbidden from leaving home without
a male relative and were denied education, much medical care and other
With the November 2001 defeat of the Taliban, the U.S. government has
made a top priority of helping Afghans begin to rebuild their country,
which has been ravaged by decades of civil strife and war. And because
of the extraordinary repression the Taliban imposed on women, the U.S.
is giving special attention to helping restore their place in Afghani
CSUN was chosen for the historic program because of President Koester,
who has a longstanding interest in international education and exchange.
Koester was one of 36 women university presidents and chancellors who
personally sponsored a full-page ad last February in the New York Times
supporting women’s rights, including education, in post-war Afghanistan.
The presidents and chancellors each head campuses that are part of the
American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU). So
when the U.S. State Department subsequently asked AASCU to help develop
the training program, seeking out universities in major urban areas,
AASCU contacted President Koester and Cal State Northridge.
While at CSUN, the five Afghan women will spend their mornings being
taught by a rotating team of five instructors headed by Bahmanyar. In
the afternoons and on weekends, they will meet with government and private
groups, tour museums and tourist spots, and make a noon presentation
on Wednesday, October 9 to the World Affairs Council in downtown Los
The Afghan women slated to study at CSUN are Masooda Barekzaie, a staff
member in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs; Marzia Bazul, a judge in
the Kabul Public Security Court; Jina Haidari, director of cooperatives,
and Wilda Rustaie, a secretary in the Ministry of Women’s Affairs,
and Breshna Sadat, another staff member in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Bob Brocklehurst, associate dean of CSUN’s College of Extended
Learning and the campus’ coordinator for the visit, predicted
the women will be dramatically influenced by their exposure to Western
society. “Our team of instructors is prepared to coach them through
a comprehensive classroom learning experience while also nurturing and
encouraging their exploration of the Los Angeles community,” Brocklehurst
Since CSUN first learned last May of the possibility of the Afghan visit,
Brocklehurst said countless members of the university community have
offered to help with the visit or share expertise with the women, far
more than they will have time for. Nonetheless, CSUN officials hope
the two weeks will be the beginning of an ongoing relationship with
the five women.
CSUN’s College of Extended Learning offers various educational
programs to those who want to take a wide range of classes and training
programs without going through the regular university admissions process.
The college last year had nearly 12,000 students enrolled, in addition
to the university’s 32,000 admitted students, said Dean Joyce
A successful visit by the Afghanistan delegation also could help open
the doors to new opportunities for international partnerships involving
the university. “Each time the university is responsive and successful
with a particular group, it broadens our connections with new communities
and wins friends for the university who may seek our help for other
projects in the future,” Feucht-Haviar said.
Editor’s Note: Biographies of the five women and other background
materials are available upon request from the CSUN Public Relations
Contact: John Chandler, (818) 677-5674 or 677-2130,