Senior, Drew University

Shamila graduated from Drew University in 2012 with a major in political science and a minor in women’s studies and was offered a job with the International Republican Institute, a non-profit organization based in Washington, DC. Ten years ago Shamila was beaten by the Taliban, deprived of any education from age 8 to 13, and confined to her home in Kabul.  In December of 2012 she spoke at TEDxWomen in LA sharing her life story.

Shortly after the Taliban were removed from power, she began to play soccer. Her soccer involvement and position as the captain of the first Women’s Afghan National Soccer Team, led to receiving the Arthur Ashe Courage Award at the 2006 ESPY Awards in Los Angeles. During that trip to the U.S., she had the opportunity to attend the Julie Foudy Sports Leadership program in New Jersey. While at the program, she met a teacher from Blair Academy who convinced the school to provide a one year scholarship to Blair, a leading boarding school in New Jersey.

From Blair, through the help of the Afghan Girls Financial Assistance Fund (, Shamila was awarded a four year scholarship to Drew University. While at Drew, she continued to play soccer, been an advocate for Afghan women and was named to the Dean’s list. During summers, she has been a volunteer counselor at the Julie Foudy Leadership Camps in Chicago, San Francisco, and New Jersey and this summer interned for three weeks at a program in Washington, D.C. called, I Live to Lead: Leadership Summit. She has also been a speaker at numerous elementary and high schools to tell young people her story and educate them on Afghanistan.

Her experiences and her education have prepared her to begin working toward her goal of being an effective contributor in the struggle to advance human rights for women.

“Start from zero. Try to reach your goals,” says Shamila. “Of course it’s hard, but if you don’t face challenges, I don’t think you can achieve anything easily.” Shamila will help us advance responsibility by working to remind everyone that we are each responsibile for our small part of making this a better world and that can begin with parents and teachers educating children to expand their understanding of cultures different than their own, to extend their compassion to people different from themselves and to be agents of change on a global level for a better future. We invite you to learn more about Shamila and the work she does.

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Shamila Kohestani on what she is most proud of

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