Support the Right to Learn in Afghanistan:

We Can and We Must

Wednesday, November 1, 2023 at 1:00 p.m.

Legion Hall, Hines Road, Kanata

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Hally Siddons

and Zahra Jafari 

University Women Helping Afghan Women


As we look very briefly at Afghanistan over the last few decades, we acknowledge that much progress was made but much more was needed. The takeover by the Taliban in August 2021, however, was more painful than anything that had come before because it shattered an era characterized by so much hope and advancement.

Today, the current realities are shocking, especially for women and girls.

University Women Helping Afghan Women (UWHAW), a CFUW-Ottawa interest group formed in 2010, had supported some 108 girls with scholarships at Gawhardshad University in Kabul when the doors were forcefully closed to women in December 2022.

Learn some of UWHAW’s story and its new partnership with Canadian Women for Women in Afghanistan to support the right to learn for young women and girls in Afghanistan. Meet a remarkable Afghan woman, and now a proud Canadian citizen, who will share some realities of her own life in the country she suddenly had to leave behind. 

Hally Siddons

A recipient of several awards including the Ottawa Distinguished Women Award, and CFUW “Notable Women”, Hally began her career in music and over the years developed instrumental music programmes in Canada, England, and the United States with festival winning concert bands and orchestras. Retirement brought time to study international issues, always an interest to her.

Meeting Dr. Sima Samar, then Chair of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission in 2010, opened Hally's mind to the needs of women and girls in Afghanistan and the reality that we could help. This led to the founding of University Women Helping Afghan Women, an interest group of the Canadian Federation of University Women-Ottawa.

UWHAW goals have remained constant since the beginning – to continue to learn about the issues facing women and girls in Afghanistan, to raise awareness of such, locally, nationally and internationally, and to support and advocate for them as they could. Over the years UWHAW has raised some $170,000, and helped some 108 young women with scholarships at Gawharshad University in Kabul until the doors were suddenly and tragically closed in December 2022. Most recently UWHAW and CFUW-Ottawa have joined a partnership with Canadian Women for Women in Afghanistan (CW4WAfgahn) to offer remote communication assistance to select young women formerly students at Gawharshad. Online learning is not a permanent solution, but it is the only viable option for young women in Afghanistan to continue their learning at this time. UWHAW is delighted CW4WAfghan has provided this opportunity.

Hally has developed an extensive network and feels passionately about the need and obligation of our voices and actions in the wider world. Together we can support the courageous and determined Afghan women help themselves. She believes we can, and we must.

Zahra Jafari

Zahra Jafari is a student of Media and TV Broadcast. Previously, she was president of Peace Through Business Networks and a board member of Afghan Women Chamber of Commerce and Industries (LEAD/AWCCI).

She was also president of Women’s Recreation Center in Kabul and Qoqnos Group of Companies.

Zahra has a master’s degree in international relations and political science from Islamic Azad University. She has a leadership certificate from Northwood University at Oklahoma City. She also graduated from the Thunderbird for Good program from School of Global Management in 2015, and 10,000 women of Golden Man Sachs Business Women Training Program in 2008.

Zahra has worked with national and international organizations including Checchi Company Consulting as a Private Sector Development Specialist, Max Planck International as a project coordinator, Counterpart International as a Gender Officer, Zardozi as Project Officer, UNHCR as Project Coordinator, Provincial women empowerment symposium, and she works as a panelist in women’s economic empowerment.

She has extensive experience in working with business women which includes participation in the recent study tour to the Maldives for business women from Pakistan and Afghanistan.

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