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Alumni Spotlight: Bahara Hussaini

(Photo courtesy of X) “Bahara Hussaini presenting her Master’s Thesis”

Nicholas Ewing
Connector Staff

UMass Lowell’s Peace and Conflict Studies program has helped students from around the world be equipped with the skills of conflict resolution. Bahara Hussaini from Afghanistan graduated from UMass Lowell in 2023. She was accepted into Kabul University to study English literature, then received a scholarship to the prestigious American University of Afghanistan majoring in political science and minoring in law. In 2021, she got a Fulbright Scholarship and was admitted into UMass Lowell studying for a master’s degree in Peace and Conflict.

For Afghan women, education is a precious asset for themselves, their families, and their communities. “Education has always been an important part of my life since elementary school because I noticed that women’s education has a major impact on their lives,” said Hussaini. “I see women who struggle to support their family. They did not have any income. They were not independent. They did not have any option other than to beg for what they asked for. That was the reason that I decided in seventh grade to get an education and become a strong and independent woman. Since then, I focused more on my education and career,” she said. The Taliban had stolen the future of millions of women and girls when the U.S. military withdrew from Afghanistan. 

“Do you feel at peace?” Hussaini had to wrestle with that question throughout her time at UMass Lowell. “The day I left Afghanistan to pursue my higher education in the U.S., I lost my country and the government collapsed,” she said. She could not detach herself from her country, her family, her friends, the future of girls, and all the achievements that were accomplished before. “I felt lost. I felt de-attached. I questioned what I am doing here while my family and my country were in disaster. I lost that excitement that I had in the beginning, but I tried hard to come to class and be focused on my classes.” Hussaini was given a class assignment asking: “Are you in peace?” In response, she said, “I asked myself, ‘Am I in peace?’ but I was in chaos. I was not at peace emotionally, physically, or spiritually. I could not stop tearing up because I had emotions for every word in the paragraph.” Yet, in her discussion group, she found support from her classmates who had similar experiences from Pakistan, Palestine, Iraq, India, and other African countries. “They had experienced war and conflict, so I did not feel alone. I found another community that I could connect myself with to share my thoughts, feelings, and concerns with people who can understand,” she said. Hussaini concluded that UMass Lowell’s peace and conflict studies helped her find herself and inner peace. “True peace begins within oneself before it extends to the realms of politics or society,” she said.

Since Hussaini’s graduation, she has begun working as a bilingual family liaison lead in the Equity and Empowerment Office of Lowell Public Schools’ Central Office. She says, “I feel I was lucky to get an education because I was in Afghanistan when we still had the right to get an education.” So she continues to help other students and their families struggling through challenges. She feels fortunate to help other students be successful in their personal and academic lives. She wished she had half of the support in Afghanistan that Lowell Public School gives to its students.

Hussaini has not been discouraged from continuing to help girls in Afghanistan with their education. She says, “I started an initiative in Afghanistan called ‘The Bookies Team’ that helps Afghan children learn about peace through education. A team of women leads it and, despite all the challenges they are facing now, they are excited to be doing this work.” 

 “I am always willing to contribute as a facilitator in various programs to help with sessions on various topics for girls in Afghanistan who are banned from education and are stuck in their houses,” says Hussaini. Many Americans may view Afghanistan as a lost cause after twenty years of failed intervention, but Hussaini urges us all to “not forget about girls and women. We can still provide educational opportunities, like scholarships and short-term educational programs, so they can be engaged positively during these hard times.”

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