Mason’s Latest Freedom and Learning Forum Features President Cabrera and Rangina Hamidi

Posted: February 27, 2014 at 5:01 am, Last Updated: February 28, 2014 at 6:47 am

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By Sudha Kamath

President Ángel Cabrera hosts the Freedom and Learning Forum at the Fairfax campus with guest speaker Rangina Hamidi, founder of Kandahar Treasure. Photo by Alexis Glenn

President Ángel Cabrera hosts the Freedom and Learning Forum at Mason with guest speaker Rangina Hamidi, founder of Kandahar Treasure. Photo by Alexis Glenn

An extraordinary global thought leader who says she “could not turn her back” on hundreds of desperate women in her native Afghanistan shared her story in the second Freedom and Learning Forum hosted by George Mason University President Ángel Cabrera and the Office of Leadership Education and Development (LEAD).

Rangina Hamidi is founder and president of Kandahar Treasure, the first women’s private enterprise in Kandahar, Afghanistan, providing life-changing, economic opportunities for hundreds of women for more than a decade.  She took questions from Cabrera and audience members in a fireside chat format that Cabrera says allowed for “more personal interaction” than a traditional lecture setting.

Hamidi shared her experiences with more than 100 students, alumni, faculty, staff and members of the public during a 90-minute forum, followed by a reception.

Rangina Hamidi

Guest speaker Rangina Hamidi, founder of Kandahar Treasure, speaks with audience members after the Freedom and Learning Forum at the Fairfax Campus. Photo by Alexis Glenn

“It is important to share opportunities such as this because we have become a more global world, and the firsthand experience added much depth to any topic of knowledge,” says Hamidi. “I think the message was received well by the community, and I can tell by the comments afterward that people were inspired and touched. It is an honor to hear that your work inspires people. This affirms that what I am doing is good.”

She appreciated the one-on-one exchange. “All were great questions, but I guess the question around the topic of ‘being a leader’ stood out for me because I never think of myself in what I do as a leader.  That was an interesting conversation.”

Hamidi adds, “When life presents you a gift of having the ability to assist in bringing livelihood to more than 400 desperate women in a country where there is continuous violence by armed forces; where culture and traditions define women as second-class citizens; where women have no space to create their agency and yet are required to live and be, I simply cannot turn my back.”

The exquisite embroidered handiwork of the women of Kandahar Treasure was on display after the event. “We did sell a great amount and there were recommendations for local venues to consider selling it, as well as some women showing interest in sharing the story with other women in their homes,” says Hamidi.

Lisa Snyder, LEAD associate director, was “extremely happy” with the turnout. “The setup was great, intimate, warm and inviting,” she says. “We received tons of positive feedback from participants, who said they were thrilled to have such an ‘influential woman’ come to campus. They appreciated what they called ‘the genuineness and courage’ of Rangina Hamidi.”

Snyder says audience members also applauded what they saw as “thoughtful and sensitive” questions by Cabrera, and felt Hamidi’s stories made a lasting impression. “They enjoyed hearing real experiences from someone they considered ‘a humble grass-roots leader.’”

As one audience member reported, “It feels like fearlessness. Reminds me to step up and not be afraid.”

Write to Sudha Kamath at skamath@gmu.edu

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