TEDWomen 2013: Invented Here

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Shamila Kohestani

Women’s Afghan National Soccer Team, Captain and Founder

Shamila is entering her senior year at Drew University and will graduate in June 2012 with a major in political science and a minor in women’s studies. Ten years ago Shamila was beaten by the Taliban, deprived of any education from age 8 to 13, and confined to her home in Kabul.

Shortly after the Taliban were removed from power, she began to play soccer. Her soccer involvement and position as the captain of the first Women’s Afghan National Soccer Team, led to receiving the Arthur Ashe Courage Award at the 2006 ESPY Awards in Los Angeles. During that trip to the U.S., she had the opportunity to attend the Julie Foudy Sports Leadership program in New Jersey. While at the program, she met a teacher from Blair Academy who convinced the school to provide a one year scholarship to Blair, a leading boarding school in New Jersey.

From Blair, through the help of the Afghan Girls Financial Assistance Fund (www.agfaf.org), Shamila was awarded a four year scholarship to Drew University. While at Drew, she has continued to play soccer, been an advocate for Afghan women and was named to the Dean’s list. During summers, she has been a volunteer counselor at the Julie Foudy Leadership Camps in Chicago, San Francisco, and New Jersey and this summer interned for three weeks at a program in Washington, D.C. called, I Live to Lead: Leadership Summit. She has also been a speaker at numerous elementary and high schools to tell young people her story and educate them on Afghanistan.

Her experiences and her education have prepared her to begin working toward her goal of being an effective contributor in the struggle to advance human rights for women.

12 Responses to Shamila Kohestani

  1. Vicky Willson says:

    Shamila, I am a member of P.E.O., an organization of women who support education for women who need help. We applaud your courage and determination and wondered if you could find the time to speak to us at one of our meetings. We would be honored. Please contact me.

    Thank you, Vicky Willson

    • Shamila kohestani says:

      Hi Vicky,

      Thank you so much for the nice comment. I would love to speak at one of your meetings. Education is very important to me and its hard for me to say no.


  2. COPERNIC says:


    • Shamila kohestani says:

      Thank you very much, That is my life goal to promote education not only in Afghanistan but around the world to help women and young girls to improve thier lives!

  3. admin says:

    Dear Shamila Kohestani

    On behalf of trustees of Afghan Human rights Organization based in the UK, I would like to thank you for your excellent and brilliant speech and presentation about women rights in Afghanistan and wish you all the best.

  4. TUSHAR SEN says:

    Excellent, just read about you, your pain you suffered and further your achievements. I am an Indian, and I can understand the problems faced by Afghanistan people, how Talibani tortured several years, specially cruelty upon women, and you crossed all barriers. As I have to send several petitions in favour of those, who didn’t commit any offence and punished wrongly, one was for a Afghanistani girl who was raped, recently she was released but ordered to marry with the rapist. What is this? Presently, I am in touch with Iranion people, in Iran there is an atmosphere of chaos; students, lawyers, journalists, whoever tries to speak against their government they have to face dire consequences. You also like these pages, it will be a great help to the people who are in need. Most of people succeed because they are destined to, but you succeed because you are determined to. Keep moving forward, you are inspiration of 100 of thousands, I wish you very very best of luck.


    • Shamila kohestani says:

      Thank you so much Tushar! I greatly appreciate what you do for afghan women and women in general. Best of luck with everything!!!!


  5. Shakila says:

    Great, I really like your speech and I was so happy to see an Afghan girl on a stage talking about Afghanistan. My name is Shakila Haidari, I am from Afghanistan and I study Business Management at Montclair State University in New Jersey. I am going to minor in Women Studies and I know how it is important for Afghan women to understand the role of gender in Afghanistan. I will be in Afghanistan in summer and would like to be in touch with Afghan women like you. If it is OK with you let’s be in touch. I have already sent you a message through facebook.

    Shakila Haidari

    • Shamila kohestani says:

      Thank you so much dear Shakila jan. Are you still in NJ? I recently moved to DC and graduated from college this past May. I would love to get in touch with you.

      Hope everything is good!


  6. jenn flemish says:

    shamila —
    what a great talk yesterday– thanks for your story of perseverance! kudos!
    – jenn flemish