On the day the Taliban arrived in her town in Afghanistan, Naheed Farid became a prisoner in her own home.
She remembers walking with her mother to her old school in 1995, her face covered for the first time in her life. She saw a man with a gun sitting out front, black smoke rising behind him.
“They burned my books, they burned my chairs, they burned my school. They burned my hopes that day,” she said.
On Monday, Farid, now 27 and the youngest member of Afghanistan’s Parliament, listened at Wellesley College as Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton called for more women to do what Farid has done: dedicate themselves to building democracyin their countries.
Clinton appeared at her alma mater as Wellesley opened the new Women in Public Service Institute.
A year after the protests and revolutions of the Arab Spring roiled the Middle East and North Africa, Clinton warned that the fragile democracies now emerging could shut women out if they do not make their voices heard.
“If you do not participate, others will hijack your revolution,” she said. “They will very often begin, from the first day, to undermine the hopes and aspirations that you were protesting for.”
The institute is part of the Women in Public Service Project, which was founded by Clinton, the US Department of State, and the sister schools Wellesley, Barnard, Bryn Mawr, Mount Holyoke, and Smith, with the goal of putting more women into political leadership positions around the world.
Former secretary of state Madeleine Albright, another Wellesley alumna, also spoke at the opening.
At Wellesley, 50 delegates – rising leaders from 21 countries in the midst of political and social transformation – will plunge into a two-week intensive course on the nuts and bolts of political leadership. They will learn how to move legislation, hold a press conference, negotiate a peace agreement, skills that Clinton said mark the transition “from protest to politics.”
The institute will be held at a different founding school each year, said Clinton.
Many of the Wellesley delegates, according to the college, participated in the Arab Spring, a series of uprisings that began in December of 2010 when the citizens of Tunisia revolted against dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. Ben Ali fled the country a month later. A wave of protests followed, toppling governments in Egypt, Yemen, and Libya.
“You are among the young people transforming a region and inspiring the world,” Clinton told them. “We are looking to you for your leadership to turn the promise of change into real and lasting progress.”
Evan Allen can be reached at email@example.com.