The Advocates, Afghanistan
In southern Afghanistan, a small team cultivates vocational training programs for women and girls and out-of-work young men, creating profound change across generations. Photographed during the U.S. occupation, these portraits were made to celebrate and honor these kindhearted advocates for education.
After a ban imposed by the Taliban in 1997 ended, education for women and girls in Afghanistan was still controversial, and employment opportunities for young men were limited. But education in this country has far-reaching benefits that span generational, ethnic, and tribal lines. Young men are guided away from violence and toward positive habits that strengthen their families and communities. Women and girls, who frequently begin with low self-esteem, graduate as confident, ambitious young adults who want to contribute to society and make a difference in their community. This team did that extraordinary work and generated profound change all around them.
In August 2021, the Taliban reclaimed Afghanistan upon U.S. withdrawal, delivering an uncertain future for education. Across the country, Afghans who had worked with American forces, NGOs, or companies face increased security risks. For this reason, I’m choosing to conceal identifying features of these exceptional people. This reconceived series now becomes an account of current times. I hope to show their faces someday again as their country’s circumstances improve. It was my utmost pleasure to have met them, and I now carry in my heart both great worry for them and their students and fervent hope for their brighter future.