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US Nurse Brings Medicine and Education to Afghan Women


US Nurse Brings Medicine and Education to Afghan Women
US Nurse Brings Medicine and Education to Afghan Women

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In the wake of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States and the subsequent allied war in Afghanistan, a registered nurse from California wanted to help innocent people in the Muslim world who were caught in the violence.

In this week's edition of our series Making a Difference, we meet an Iranian-born woman who says education is the best way to help the people of Afghanistan, especially women and children.

In 2001, Fary Moini traveled to Pakistan where she volunteered in a refugee clinic, helping to deliver babies. She says the lack of supplies was shocking.

"There were no bed sheets, no hot water, no heater at all. During delivery, electricity was gone and we had to use a flashlight, and doctors were using food gloves. Without any anesthesia or anything, we delivered the baby with a flashlight," she explains, "I'll never forget I went back, and I sat in a chair, and I felt sick. And tears were running down my face, and they said, 'What is wrong with you?' And I said, 'What is wrong with me!? What is this?' I mean, it was so inhumane!"

Moini's experience in the clinic got her thinking about what she could do to help the people of Afghanistan over the long term.

With help from the service organization Rotary International, she raised nearly a quarter-of-a-million dollars to build a school in Jalalabad, Afghanistan. The school opened in 2004.

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But Moini noticed something that troubled her -- there were few girls beyond the age of 13 in school.

"I found out they don't like to go, if they have male teacher. They need female teachers," she says, "At that time, they had only two female teachers at the whole school."

Again, with help from Rotary International, Fary Moini raised enough money to hire 13 female teachers, allowing hundreds of girls to finish high school. All the while, she thought of ways to improve the education of girls and young women. Her latest project -- an all-women's dormitory at Nangarhar University.

"If they don't have a dormitory or a safe house or a family member, they will not send them, they will not send their girls for higher education," she says, "That was the reason we came up with the idea of 'why don't we build a dormitory,' because if they have a safe house, we will have more girls [in school]."

During eight years and 11 trips to Afghanistan, Fary Moini says she has encountered some criticism from local men. But for the most part, she says they seem to accept her and her efforts.

Moini says that the best way to educate women in Afghanistan is to educate men as well -- convincing them that schooling their sisters and daughters will benefit them and their society.