Heather Farrell



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Abstract or Description

Women on the frontline of efforts to end violence and secure a just peace seldom record their experiences, activities and insights – as generally there is no time or, perhaps, they do not have formal education that would help them record their stories. The Women PeaceMakers Program is a selective program for leaders who want to document, share and build upon their unique peacemaking stories. Selected peacemakers join the IPJ for an eight-week residency.

Women PeaceMakers are paired with a Peace Writer to document in written form their story of living in conflict and building peace in their communities and nations. The peacemakers’ stories are also documented on film by the IPJ’s partner organization Sun & Moon Vision Productions. While in residence at the institute, Women PeaceMakers give presentations on their work and the situation in their home countries to the university and San Diego communities.

Palwasha Kakar serves as a deputy minister in the Ministry of Women’s Affairs for the government of Afghanistan. Prior to this, Kakar served as program manager in the eastern regional office of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) in Jalalabad, Nangarhar Province, where she worked toward the protection, promotion and defense of the rights of the Afghan people with a particular focus on women.

Born to an educated family in eastern Afghanistan, Kakar graduated from the faculty of social sciences at Kabul University and became a teacher. Throughout much of the 1980s and 1990s, Kakar and her family were displaced because of the Soviet occupation or fighting among the Mujahedeen. When public teaching became impossible, she joined a United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) program working as a social mobilizer and trainer. She went on to create the only home school for girls in the eastern zone during the time of the Taliban. Because of her activities, her husband was briefly jailed and her family later forced into exile in Pakistan. Back in Afghanistan in 2001, Kakar served again as a UNICEF trainer, this time in the western city of Herat, and created the first council of women in the city. For the AIHRC, Kakar served as women’s rights officer and program manager, documenting human rights violations and calling on the government of Afghanistan, Taliban insurgents and international forces to respect and uphold the rights of Afghan citizens.

In her post in the ministry, Kakar has been seeking ways to surmount the challenging patriarchal norms which prevail throughout the nation. With 64 women currently holding seats within parliament, Kakar is battling tokenism and pushing for effective, transformative leadership to ensure that the rights of Afghan women are ingrained within governmental policy. Her work to ascertain the status of Afghan women in remote regions of the country has placed her in life-threatening situations, yet she asserts that the voices of the female population will be heard. Additionally, through this post, Kakar is working toward the creation of environments in which Afghan women may have some reprieve from the constant discrimination and violence they face because of their sex, and is seeking to institutionalize the abolition of violence against women.

Publication Date


Document Type



peacebuilding, Women PeaceMakers, Afghanistan


Peace and Conflict Studies

Cradled in Her Arms: Stories of the Life and Work of Palwasha Kakar of Afghanistan