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AUAF Valedictorian Onaba Payab Participates at Women Rule with Mrs. Laura Bush in Washington, DC

On March 15, 2015, American University of Afghanistan (AUAF) 2014 Valedictorian Onaba Payab participated  in a panel discussion with Former First Lady of the United States Mrs. Laura Bush and Founder and CEO of Afghan Institute of Learning Dr. Sakena Yacoobi, on "Empowering Afghan Women".  The conference, hosted by POLITICO, Google, and Tory Burch foundation, was held in Washington DC.

The event  discussed a new book by the Bush Institute with an introduction by Mrs. Bush about Afghan women. The book showcase the amazing progress that has been made over the last thirteen years, and to encourage US policy makers and the international community to remain engaged with Afghanistan. 

"What happens on other parts of the world does matter to us here," said Mrs. Bush. "I hope whoever the next president of the United States is, it's someone who will pay attention to the women of Afghanistan and all parts of the world."

Panel members discussed critical and important questions and  issues such as; what difference, if any, does it make to have women in the highest seats of power? After 15 years of U.S. involvement in Afghanistan, what is the legacy for women? And what have we learned about educating girls in places where they risk their lives by going to school?

Onaba Payab spoke about the importance of international community continued engagement  in Afghanistan and said that  the international community has a historical, moral, and real interest and responsibility to support women of her country otherwise they could potentially lose momentum at a time where great progress is made through international programs and support. 

 "It is barely believable just how far we have come as country- we still have lots of work to do but the advocacy of women's rights and the high position in cabinets, diplomatic channels,  and parliament that women occupy was barely conceivable a decade ago and that is due to the international community- led by the US and their programs and initiatives- with Laura Bush as the great advocate."Said Onaba.

Dr. Sakena Yacoobi discussed the importance of education for girls and said that she will soon open a university for women in Herat. "We need education to overcome the ignorance. The women of Afghanistan have now had a taste of democracy and there is no going back," she said.

Onaba Payab is currently working as a Communications Officer at AUAF. She has been awarded Fulbright scholarship 2016-2017 to pursue her Master's in Public Policy.