Meet Farishta Sakhi, Colloquium Alumna from Afghanistan

   •    December 11, 2014

farishtaAfghanistan’s Farishta Sakhi says a crucial element in building peace is honest communication, because “too often, even people sitting together don’t have a collective understanding of the causes of violence.” Her comment is born from 14 years of personal experience rebuilding her country under harrowing conditions, including helping to stabilize communities where insurgents maintain a dangerous presence.

Beginning in 2001 when she joined the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, Farishta listened closely to her fellow citizens as they described the security challenges of their daily lives. That knowledge informed her success as regional coordinator in four western provinces for the first presidential elections in Afghanistan.

A decade ago, The Institute for Inclusive Security singled out Farishta as an individual of rare courage and leadership potential. We invited her to become a member of our Women Waging Peace Network, and later she joined Inclusive Security staff to co-lead workshops for members of Afghanistan’s Provincial Peace Councils, which oversee the reintegration into society of former combatants. In January 2014, we brought Farishta to our annual colloquium to teach and learn from counterparts in other conflict regions, as well as influential policy and media professionals. She told us recently that she felt reborn after spending such an intense time surrounded by inspiring leaders. Their confidence and advice renewed her strength. Thriving with this encouragement, and despite continued security threats, Farishta resolved to share her practical vision for a peaceful Afghanistan even more widely.

Colloquium group shot

Participants in Inclusive Security’s 2014 colloquium, including Farishta Sakhi (top left), pose onstage at Harvard’s John F. Kennedy, Jr. Forum. The Forum offers women leaders the chance to share their views with current and future policymakers.

Within months, she was named Director General of Security Cooperation and Border Affairs in the Foreign Ministry. The senior national security officials with whom she strategizes are almost exclusively male; her well-grounded perspective is unique and increasingly respected. With Farishta’s broader focus on interaction with entire communities, including women, she and her staff improve the work of border security services, many of which operate in areas still controlled by the Taliban. She ensures that gender sensitivity training is incorporated into programs for police and military personnel, who are often first responders in the event of attacks or when women are victims of sexual violence.

Farishta Sakhi exemplifies the effective partnerships forged between Inclusive Security and women leaders. Despite widespread fears of increasing violence and extremism in her country as international forces draw down, this brave woman is breaking new ground, teaching others, and preparing to serve in even higher office, using the networks and peacebuilding skills we helped her develop.

Click here to learn more about our 2015 colloquium.

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