UVA Hosts Female Afghan Delegation for Democracy Program
The University of Virginia is hosting a delegation of 22 women from Afghanistan this week as part of the UVA Center for Politics's Global Perspectives on Democracy Program.
They are lawyers, representatives from Afghanistan's Ministry of Justice, and nonprofit directors who are leading their country toward democracy and learning about American politics and law through firsthand experience.
Hamida Saidi is a defense lawyer educated in Kabul. "Lots of women don't know their rights, what rights they have," said Saidi.
She and the rest of the delegation started their visit to Charlottesville in federal court Wednesday.
"The system is different, and we're learning here how should we accept these difficulties for our people," said Saidi.
Judge J. Harvie Wilkinson III discussed the U.S. court system with the women and answered their questions. He reminded them that the system they are helping build in Afghanistan will take time.
"The rule of law requires constant vigilance and not taking it for granted," Judge Wilkinson said. "You have to get up and ask how can we make it work just a little bit better each and every day."
The U.S.-Afghanistan Professional Partnership Program is showing democracy at work. Wilkinson said, "The spirit of freedom and dignity and human rights is a contagious spirit."
UVA Center for Politics Director Larry Sabato shared insight into American elections and fielded questions from the women about President Obama's chances of re-election. The women will also spend time working with Charlottesville nonprofits.
Daman Irby with the UVA Center for Politics said the job-shadowing experience is "trying to get some practical, professional experiences that they can take back - get a feel for what it's like to work in an American organization."
Saidi plans to return to Afghanistan to educate her fellow women from school up to careers, but she understands the challenges facing her country's future. "I will do my best, because I trust nothing is easy," said Saidi.
The program will last four weeks - including trips to Colonial Williamsburg, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C.
This is the third delegation visiting UVA from Afghanistan since the program started in 2009. Coordinators at the university say it's an exchange and sharing of ideas and experiences between the countries.
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