When Afghanistan’s capital city of Kabul fell to the Taliban on Aug. 15, 2021, the first thing Roshan Mashal did was take down all the photos of high-profile Afghan women, activists and achievements on all three floors of the Afghan Women’s Network office. 

Mashal was the last person to leave the office that day. What should have been a 15-minute ride home took four hours as panicked people rushed to their houses. A normal day in the office suddenly turned into what Mashal described as a “big trauma.” 

“I was thinking how I could manage as a leader of my office,” said Mashal, who served as a deputy director at the time. “I just thought I should do something to take care of everyone, not just me.”

Only three days later, Mashal, her husband and their five children fled Kabul and traveled for several days before landing in the United States on Aug. 23, 2021. Mashal, now a Texas International Education Consortium fellow, is set to share her experience and what the fall of Afghanistan means for girls in the country during an event at the University of Texas at Arlington on March 30. 

Women’s History Month: Roshan Mashal: ‘Women’s Rights and Advocacy Around the Globe’

Listen to Mashal’s story and how she advocated for women’s rights in Afghanistan during an event on March 30 at the University of Texas at Arlington. More information can be found here.

Time: 12 p.m. to 1 p.m.

Location:

Rosebud Theatre, University Center
300 W. First St., Arlington, TX

Cost: Free

“Mashal has spent her career advocating on behalf of women in Afghanistan. Her very special lived experience and deep expertise in communications and gender studies will bring a new level of global learning to students and faculty at UTA,” Robin Lerner, president and CEO of the Texas International Education Consortium, said in a news release. 

As a director with the Afghan Women’s Network, Mashal and her team advocated for women’s rights throughout the country, including ensuring girls had access to education and professional opportunities. Mashal worked at the organization for 11 years.

“When you spend a decade of life somewhere, and we lose all of them in one second, it’s not easy,” she said.

For Mashal, education holds a special place — it’s how she became an activist. 

“The first government of the Taliban, when they eliminated girls and women from the schools and universities at that time, I couldn’t accept that,” the activist said. “And after that time, I decided my life mission is to advocate for women and girls, especially for their educational rights.”

Before her family’s resettlement in the U.S., Mashal had never stepped foot in the country. The cultural differences, the uncertainty of her legal status as a refugee and lack of transportation made adjusting to life a bit more difficult for Mashal, her husband and her children, who are 13 to 28 years old. 

“Everything is different, everything has its own problem,” Mashal said. “Besides that, I’m happy that at least me and my children, my husband are safe from danger.”

Despite being thousands of miles away from home, the activist continues to speak up for the rights of women and girls in Afghanistan. Using social media, the Afghan Women’s Network has been sharing resources for women to advocate for themselves. 

“Education is a very fundamental right,” she said. “When a mother educates her children, you imagine that she educated all of society because her children will go into society and they (will make decisions). If the mother is not educated about everything, how could she educate them to be a good person or good citizen for their country?”

At this time, Mashal says it’s not possible for her to return home to Afghanistan. She said meaningful participation by all citizens is what makes a country. She hopes to see change soon in her home country as the younger generation has become more vocal about their lack of rights. 

“The new generation won’t accept that. They know how they could manage their life,” the activist said. “(If things) continue like this, it will be a very dark future, an unclear future for everyone, especially for women and girls.”

Fort Worth Report fellow Sandra Sadek may be reached at sandra.sadek@fortworthreport.org or via Twitter. At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.

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Sandra Sadek

Sandra Sadek is a Report for America corps member, covering growth for the Fort Worth Report. Originally from Houston, she graduated from Texas State University where she studied journalism and international...

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